Hassan’s Aug 2018 Japan Trip Report Back

Repost from August 2018

73 years ago, with the ok from President Harry Truman, two silver rockets were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In a flash of light Japan and the world changed forever. 

Hibakushais the Japanese name for people who lived through the blast and they are the only people on Earth from whom this story can be told as a first hand account. Audiences in Japan and all over the world sit silent as Hibakshua retell their first hand accounts of the attack to serve as a warning and a prayer for peace.

 For more than two decades, Gensuiken has been organizing a conference in Japan marking the anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasak. The conference this year had about 1,800 people in attendance made up of activists, international delegates, engaged citizens, and members of Japan’s trade unions. Their motto is that nuclear weapons and humans cannot coexist.

One of the things that make Gensuiken so trusted by the nuclear abolitionist community is that Kouichi Kawano, a world famous Hibakshua chairs the non-profit. He is a local legend and has been an outspoken critic of nuclear weapons for decades. As a small boy he was only a few kilometers from the hypocenter during the attack at Nagasaki, which killed many of his relatives.

Peace Action has been represented at this conference in the past by national staff including Executive Director Jon Rainwater, President Kevin Martin, and Senior Policy Director Paul Martin. This was the first year that Peace Action was represented at Gensuiken by a staff member from an affiliate.

Travel Timeline: 

On July 30th, I took 14-hour Asiana Airlines flight into Seoul. It was a nice surprise to see Michelle Cuna, MAPA’s Assistant Director on the plane from O’Hare to Seoul. She was attending another conference happening in Japan put on by Gensuiken’s sister org Gensukio. Michelle told me Gensuiken and Gensukio used to hold the conference together but there was a split many years back due to ideological differences. Later in the trip I learned that this year was the first time in quite a while that collaboration happened between the two organizations, as they came together at the peace march in Hiroshima and did a photo-op. This is a good sign for the anti nuclear weapons movement in Japan.

On August 1st I landed in Shin-Osaka airport and took the JR (high-speed rail) to downtown Osaka. Waiting for me at the train station in Osaka was a 5’2’ woman named Michio and her friend Olive. They both were smiling wide and carrying a sign with my name on it with the word welcome written in black sharpie underneath. “Welcome Hassan.” Michio said with a bow. Her smile was contagious.

The three of us walked to Michio’s house a few blocks away from the station. As I walked in the front door, I was instructed to take off my shoes and exchange them for a pair of “Japan style” slippers. After a quick nap in my room, I came down stairs and joined them for a meal of traditional Japanese feast of raw fish, tofu, veggies, and white rice. With some pointers from Michio I learned the proper way to use chopsticks during dinner, which became an invaluable skill for the rest of my time in Japan. Michio’s living room also served as a teashop open for business during the day from 10am-4pm. 

2 days later I took the JR line down to Hiroshima to make it in time for Gensuiken’s conference orientation. I was impressed at the efficiency of the high-speed rail, as well as its smoothness, speed, and cleanliness. I thought to myself, “Why can’t we have one of those in America? Oh yeah! Our bloated war economy! It’s time to fix that.”

 At Hiroshima station I was met by a middle aged man named Takashi who assisted me with translation during the trip. Soon after we were in the lobby of the Ark Hotel in Hiroshima where Takashi gave myself and the other international delegates of the conference the schedule for the week and when to meet for lunch later that day. 

 In the afternoon, Takashi and I went to the Hiroshima Peace Museum. What stuck out to me were the garments of many children who died in the attack. “How could we have committed this atrocity?” I asked myself with a knot in my stomach staring at the blood stained fabric of a child’s tunic behind 2-inch glass.

On August 4th I gave a 40-minute workshop on American nuclear policy to a crowd of about 100 people at a conference room near our hotel. My speech was well received and covered the US 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, ICAN, the escalation of America’s nuclear stockpile and an update on America’s peace movement. Many of the questions the audience asked during the Q/A were directed at me. I think this was due to the fact many of the audience members wanted to better understand American foreign policy from an American’s perspective. I tried my best to find a balance between realism (given the fact hawkish conservatives control all branches of government) and optimism. 

At the International Symposium held at the Ark Hotel later in the day Gregory, the representative from the Union of Concerned scientists talked about how Obama was about to declare a policy of no first use with nuclear weapons at his infamous speech in Hiroshima, but decided against it after being lobbied hard by Japan’s government not to. Gregory told us that Abe and members of his cabinet wanted America to keep that military option for Japan’s self-defense from other regional actors including China, North Korea, and Russia. He also discussed new efforts to build storage capacity for nuclear weapons on Okinawa. After listening to all the panelists, I began appreciate on an even deeper level that we can only truly stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons by working in coalition across borders.

On the morning of August 6th we got up at 6am to attend the Hiroshima commemoration ceremony.  We took our seats and at 8:15am a loud bell rang as we sat in silence remembering the dead and everyone who has suffered from the nuclear attack 73 years prior in Hiroshima. I felt a chill run down my spine feeling the vibration of the gong chimes all through my body.

 After the speeches commenced I opened up my program. A blue piece of paper fell out with instructions on it on how to make a paper crane. My new friend Komiko helped me turn the paper into something resembling a paper crane. She giggled at my clumsy folding skills but stuck with me till I finished it. 

Prime Minister Abe took the stage and we all got quiet. “The tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki must never be repeated. As the only country to have experienced the horror of nuclear devastation in war, Japan has a mission of persistently working to bring about “a world free of nuclear weapons…  it is essential to gain the cooperation of both nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states, taking an accurate understanding of the tragic realities of the atomic bombings as a starting point. Japan, firmly upholding the “Three Non-Nuclear Principles,” is determined to serve tenaciously as a mediator bridging the gap between the two and lead the efforts put forth by the international community.” 

Many of the members of Gensuiken rolled their eyes for Prime Minister Abe’s speech due to the hypocrisy of him calling out the danger of nuclear weapons while lobbying America’s elected officials behind the scenes to escalate its nuclear stockpile and keep a policy of first use. 

After Abe’s speech, two 6th grade child representatives from Hiroshima gave touching remarks where they said, “Peace is being able to smile naturally. Peace is everyone and yourself being happy. Peace is a future with hopes and dreams.” Their words were met with raucous applause. 

Later on that evening our team went to a lantern ceremony on the river that runs right past the Hiroshima peace museum. I was mesmerized by the thousands of candles lighting up the river, each one representing a soul who died in the blast. Time slowed as I watched the hundreds of tiny lights shimmer on the water surface.

On August 7th the Gensuiken crew took the JR south to Nagasaki and caught the opening ceremony there. The hall was packed with nearly 1,800 people in attendance. This rally featured many speakers, a testimony from a local Hibakshua, and a multi generational chorus. On August 8thI woke up early to give another workshop and spent the rest of the day napping at the hotel. This was one of the only moments for down time I had during the whole trip and I reveled in this chance for deep rest. I used the evening to reflect on my Japan journey thus far, do some journaling, practice my guitar, and to prepare for my speech that I was asked to give the following day at Gensuiken’s closing ceremony. 

On August 9th I took the stage around 10am and looked out onto the crowd of 2,000 people. My heart pounded as I gave my speech auditorium.

“Hello everyone. My name is Hassan El-Tayyab and I’m the policy and organizing director of Chicago Area Peace Action.73 years ago, with the ok from Harry Truman 2 silver rockets were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In a flash of light Japan and the world changed forever. On behalf of the 200,000 members of Peace Action in America, I want to say we are deeply sorry that our country committed this atrocity and we are sorry for the hundred of thousands that died and for those that still. I’m the grandson of a US Air force Vet who was on active duty during WW2 training for a mission to invade Japan. I learned much from Grandpa growing up. Some things were true and some things I would later learn were myths. The biggest myth he ever told me was that these nuclear attacks were justified. He once told me, “A million people would have died if we invaded and that bomb is the reason why our family is alive today.”

 This myth still lives inside the minds of many Americans and serves as a legitimating force for continuing U.S. preparations for nuclear war and US first strike threats. Our job in the peace movement is to correct false narratives and tell the truth about history so nuclear weapons are never used again. I promise to never stop working for this goal.

 When looking at history, it’s easy to see how much fear drives people to do terrible things. The forces of hate, fear, and xenophobia are on the rise today in a way they haven’t been in my lifetime but looking around, seeing everyone’s faces, knowing that we share a commitment to a common goal — this gives me hope. You all give me hope. Together we must continue to strive for a world that prioritizes peace and our shared humanity over profit and war. We must work towards a world that embraces love and kindness over fear and hate. Being here has inspired me to my core and strengthened my resolve to keep going. No more Nagasaki, No more Hiroshima, No more Fukishima!  Thank you all.”

Next I sang a song I wrote called In the Folds. I told the crowd “This one is about how we grow in our hearts in the spaces in between the moments of our lives. And when we do that we can grow our movement.” In my song there is a line that says, “When raindrops turn to rust and make our gardens grow.” It reminded me how soon plants and animals began to come back to Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombings. The estimates were that it might take over 70 years but it ended up taking only about 3. Life and love always seems to find a way to grow even in the hardest circumstances. 

 Many of the attendees at the rally came up and thanked me for my words, my song, and my hope for a better world. A Chernobyl survivor told me that she had never heard an American apologize for this attack. This surprised me but I was glad that she at least heard some one say it. One of the high school boys in the audience came up and told me he was an aspiring singer and that he loved my music. He asked for my CD, which I happily gave him. Takashi later told me that boys in Japan are not encouraged to sing so I was glad to have been there to show him that music making regardless of your gender should be embraced! 

On August 10th I flew out of Shin-Osaka to Seoul for a 24-hour layover before my flight to Chicago. Flying into South Korea’s Incheon Airport the second time around gave me a chance to see this expansive high-tech cityscape in the light of day. I passed through customs with ease and exchanged some of my remaining Yen for Won, the South Korean currency. I made a reservation at the Seoul Royal Hotel and took a bus downtown for a much needed night’s rest. 

The following morning I explored the capitol with Wong-Young, one of the international panelists I had met at the Gensuiken conference that lived in South Korea. She acted as my tour guide for the day and took me to President Moon’s residence (the Blue House), Gyeongbok Palace (the ancient capitol of Korea), and the street where the candle light revolution took place. It was awe inspiring to walk down the same street that millions of Koreans occupied for months in their fight to free themselves from the corrupt regime of disgraced president Pak Un Hey. Being there in person allowed me to feel the power of the South Korean democratic movement that has literally changed the world and given peace with North Korea a legitimate chance.

By 6pm on August 12th I felt the wheels of my Asiana Airline plane touch down on American soil. I was finally back in the USA after 2 weeks of globetrotting in Asia. I got choked up on the Uber ride home underneath looking outside my window at a glowing orange-red sun hanging over my Midwest City. I was overwhelmed with emotion as I reflected about the trip, my new friends from new parts of the globe, the weight of the stories of the Hibakshua, the devastation of nuclear weapons, and of course jet lag. I was sad to leave Japan, but very glad to be home ready to double down on my fight for a more peaceful and just planet. 

 Speech Content:

I’ve included some text from my speeches for you all to check out. I did my best to give Gensuiken the most up to date snapshot of American nuclear policy, our recently released Nuclear Posture Review, ICAN, the Korea peace process, and the state of the American peace movement.

 Nuclear Posture Review

We are in a very dangerous moment in history regarding the threat of nuclear weapons. The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture review, a regular review of U.S. nuclear weapons policies have added to the list of scenarios in which nuclear weapons can be used. Now, the US maintains that it could launch nuclear attacks in response to cyber-attacks that substantially degrade our national infrastructure, as well as in response to any chemical or biological weapons attacks. This is a dangerous return to Cold War era thinking.

Escalation of our Nuclear Weapons stockpile:

The NPR also calls for the proliferation and escalation of the United State’s nuclear weapons stockpile. This modernization program started under the Obama administration and has continued under Trump. Over the next 30 years, the US plans to spend about 1.2 trillion dollars (1.7 adjusted for inflation) modernizing our stockpile, delivery systems, and creating a new arsenal of low yield nuclear weapons designed to be “more usable”. One of these low-yield weapons comes in the form of a warhead for the existing stockpile of Trident submarine missiles. Another is a sea-launched cruise missile that would use an existing warhead. Both options would add to the available array of low-yield nuclear options in the U.S. arsenal, supplementing the bomber-deliverable gravity bombs and air-launched cruise missiles. The word “low yield” is a bit of a misnomer as some of these weapons could do as much damage as the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Other new weapons include a stand off air launched cruise missile which can be used in first strike attacks against Russia and China, with the latter more important as China is developing access denial in the Western Pacific. Many critics of this plan including Former Defense Secretary General William Perry think these upgrades add little value to our current capabilities and are too expensive considering all the investments America needs to make on its crumbling infrastructure, healthcare, and education for its citizens.

 Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons:

Since Trump took office, more Americans are concerned about the danger of nuclear weapons then any time since the end of the Cold War. There is a reason for that. Nuclear threats coming from Trump’s White House seem to be lobbed casually and come in the form of “fire and fury” comments at press conferences, off the cuff 3am tweets, and unscripted insults from a lectern in front of the UN. It seems as if it’s a daily occurrence to find Trump’s top advisors caught off guard and in a situation where they are forced to smooth over his reckless and undisciplined approach to foreign policy. At first it was North Korea and now it seems as if Iran is our next target with the pulling out of the Iran Nuclear deal. As Trump’s recklessness on the world stage grows more apparent to the American public, efforts to rethink our nuclear command and control structure are picking up steam.

 The law of the land in America since the dawn of the nuclear weapons age has been that the President has unilateral authority to order a first strike nuclear attack. Of course, that poses a grave threat no matter who is president. But right now there is a person in that role who shows very little understanding and respect for nuclear deterrence strategy.

 In response to the growing national security threat that is America’s current commander in chief, there are bipartisan bills pending in the House and Senate that could prevent a worst-case scenario by requiring an official declaration of war from Congress to do a first strike with a nuclear weapon. S.200 or H.R.669 — The Restricting First Use with a Nuclear Weapon Act  — would force a robust debate on this potentially civilization ending decision and reassure other leaders around the world that our nuclear stockpile was only for deterrence and not aggression. We currently have an unprecedented 81 cosponsors for the House bill.

 Korea Peace Process:

One area of our political landscape that gives me hope is the relaxation of tensions with North Korea. Granted, this is a constantly shifting landscape but there is still much to be optimistic about. Led by the candlelight revolution, the people of South Korea elected the son of a North Korean refugees and advocate for “any time any where” diplomacy, President Moon.

 Peace Action is working in a coalition called the Korea Peace Network; a group comprised of over 100 activists and organizations all pushing for diplomacy not war on the Korean Peninsula. Coincidentally, we held our Korea Peace Network conference and advocacy days in DC simultaneously with the historic peace summit between the leaders of the US and North Korea on June 12. Our network had a chance to respond to skeptics of the peace process at the dawn of a new age in diplomatic relations on the Korean Peninsula. One thing is clear. The Korean people want peace and we as Americans and world citizens have a unique opportunity to support them in their desire for de-escalation of over seven decades of hostility and tension.

Our message to Congress was that this is a first-step in the right direction and that they as elected officials should take a lead role in supporting open dialogue. The summit built good personal relations between the leaders and kick-started a LONG process toward peace. North Korea has provided security assurances up to this point by halting missile and nuclear tests, releasing the detainees, and destroying a nuclear test site. Trump’s decision to halt the US-South Korea war games is an appropriate security guarantee for the America to provide that will significantly help grow trust.

The decision to recover and repatriate US service members is a point of real substance. This agreement will begin joint US-North Korean military collaboration that will bring closure to thousands of families and reduce the risk of military miscalculation, as the two sides will begin regular communication. The US must now pursue as many engagements like this as possible starting by providing protections for humanitarian operations, revoking the travel ban to allow for more people to people contacts, allowing aid into the country, and reuniting Korean families.

A big fight that the peace movement is facing is actually with members of the Democratic Party. Trump is such a polarizing figure that anything with his name on it is controversial to the left, including open dialogue with North Korea something we think progressives should support. We have a huge fight on our hands here. During our lobby visits with Congress, we found much opposition to these talks. Some lawmakers who normally side with peace even said that our war games on the DMZ should continue. One of the sources of Democratic opposition is a mirror image of what the Republicans did to Obama, not wanting him to have any achievements that can be used by Republicans in the mid-term elections. Complete North Korean denuclearization would take 15 years, and there is the possibility that it will not happen, especially as the U.S. resists the phased process that the North Korean government is understandably demanding.

 Our message to skeptical members of Congress is that we should follow the will of the Korean people and President Moon, possibly the most popular president on the planet. A challenge we face is that so many of these lawmakers really have a very limited knowledge of North Korea. A massive education campaign is necessary. To fill this gap, Chicago Area Peace Action is doing several speaking events with Korean Americans who have first hand knowledge of the conflict and can put people at ease about this process. We must remind people that North Korea is a country of 25 million people, not one dictator.

 ICAN (International Coalition Against Nuclear Weapons) and the Ban Treaty:

In a geopolitical landscape dominated by nuclear weapon states, there has been much to cause us all anxiety. Russia and America are escalating their nuclear stockpiles on a grand scale adding to their combined stockpile of roughly 14,000 warheads. Nuclear weapons are the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created. As you all know, a single nuclear bomb could kill millions of people.

 Amidst this unfortunate reality, there is finally reason for optimism regarding the abolition of nuclear weapons. After decades of organizing by the International Coalition Against Nuclear Weapons otherwise known as ICAN, the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons passed the United Nations by a vote of 122 to 1 providing a concrete vision for a safer world for everyone of us. This is truly a historic moment indeed worthy of the 2017 Nobel peace prize and public rebuke of the current nuclear weapons states that were missing in this ban effort.

 For too long, nuclear weapons holding states have prevented any forward movement on the abolition of nuclear weapons. But this vote in the UN was a bold step that declared on the world stage that global citizens everywhere are done waiting for leaders in a handful of countries to stop holding us all hostage. Nuclear weapons poison our water and precious earth and must be banned. This UN vote also sent a message that we are organized and able to hold accountable states that have not lived up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970. After the vote the US, UK, and France all made statements saying they don’t feel that this pact is binding. Nonetheless, this treaty sends an important message and puts real pressure on nuclear weapon holding states.

 Before the adoption of this treaty, nuclear weapons were the only WMDs not subject to a comprehensive ban. This treaty prohibits nations from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory.

 It also prohibits countries from assisting, encouraging or inducing anyone to engage in any of these activities. A nation that possesses nuclear weapons may join the treaty, so long as it agrees to destroy them in an agreed timeline.

 There are many ways we can all collectively support this growing international movement. I think the most powerful thing we can do is encourage our representatives and politicians to take the Parliamentary Pledge found on the ICAN website. ICANW.org. In addition, we must continue to speak out against the nuclear weapons in any forum we can large or small. We must keep demanding change and we must all keep chipping away at the strangle hold these weapons have on life as we know it. Lastly, we must stop all investments into nuclear weapons by our governments, our banks, and our own personal spending.

  State of the Peace Movement in America:

 Let me next tell you about what the peace movement and Peace Action is doing to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons, push for diplomacy not war, and push back against runaway militarism and the war economy.

Our demands for Congress and the administration are to cut back on the obscene nuclear spending over the next 30 years for a whole new generation of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. We are also asking for a policy of “No First Use”. In other words the U.S. would promise to never be the first country to use nuclear weapons. We are also asking for all U.S. weapons to be taken off of hair-trigger, launch-on-warning status to prevent a catastrophic mistake from killing millions of innocents. We are asking for the elimination of the destabilizing Long Range Stand Off weapons, a new nuclear cruise missile that is especially destabilizing because the countries on the receiving end of the missile can’t tell whether it is a conventional cruise missile or a nuclear weapon. And we are asking for diplomacy not war with North Korea, Iran, and Yemen.

 The Peace Movement in America is not in the driver seat currently given our political climate. We are in defensive position with hawkish conservatives in control of all three branches of government. Because of this, we are not expecting major progress until after the 2018 midterm elections or in 2020 when Trump is faced with the challenge of reelection. The areas I think we have a chance to make a real impact are with our 2018 Peace Voter work, where we work to elect pro-peace advocates to Congress, diplomacy with North Korea, stopping the development of some Low Yield nuclear weapons, and hopefully electing a new president in 2020.

 One of the big challenges we have is in a fight to get peace issues the attention they deserve. Right now the peace movement is overshadowed by so many other progressive issues and not given the same level of energy. It is our job to get people to understand the intersectionality between militarism and our bloated war economy and struggles for immigration reform, environmental justice, health care, education, civil rights, and economic justice. Getting people to understand how this all is connected is essential for making progress toward our shared values.

 To do this, we are working hard to engage the next generation of peace activists at High Schools and colleges all over the country. This to me is one of the most exciting things the peace movement is doing. Chicago Area Peace Action’s goal is to mentor the next generation to most effectively use their voice, vote and creative energy to build a constituency for progressive and humane public policies. My call to action for Gensuiken was to connect their foreign exchange students in America to Peace Action.

 Personal Stories I shared with Gensuiken:

 One thing I wanted to share with Gensuiken was a bit of my personal background. At many of my speaking events I shared a story about my grandfather Harold T. Maccaferri, a US Air force Vet who was on active duty during WW2 as I wanted to give my audience an understanding about the false narratives Americans still believe about the bombings.

 The biggest myth I learned from Papa was that dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was terrible but completely necessary. He once told me, “A million people would have died if we invaded and that bomb is the reason why we are alive today Hassan.” He was training for a mission to fly a glider plane into Japan and he was weeks away being deployed. If the mission happened, Papa would have flown a glider plane packed with infantry troops and military equipment into Japan. If he survived the flight in, he would have grabbed a rifle and joined the troops on the battlefield. It’s true the chances that he would have survived were slim. Up to my grandfather’s last days on this Earth he always believed the Truman lie. My whole family bought into the lie, that this was a horrible but necessary decision by our President. For a long time I’m ashamed to say, I believed them too.

 It wasn’t until I was a college student studying political science that I dug deeper and learned that Japan had attempted to surrender well before Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I learned that we dropped the bomb so that the Soviets would fear American military strength during the Cold War era and so the US would not have to share influence with the Soviet Union in Northern China, Manchuria, and Korea. I learned that our military leaders including President Eisenhower thought that Japan had already been defeated and there was no strategic reason to drop this bomb. I also learned about how much racism played a role. But this disastrous lie about the reason we launched these attacks is still alive and well inside the American psyche. The myth that the A-bombs were used legitimately to end the war serves as a legitimating force for continuing U.S. preparations for nuclear war and US first strike threats.

 A big part of our job in the peace movement is working to correct false narratives about history. We must all keep educating the American people on what really happened and why. Because when people know the truth they’ll be able to make the correction in thinking, in culture and then in our politics so we never use nuclear weapons again.

 Connecting Racism to the Bombings:

 As we look to the future, we must learn from our past because history repeats. When I look back into the pages of history, I see just how much fear drives human beings to do terrible things. Having grown up with a Muslim name in America, I know first hand how damaging it can be both on a personal level, and on the world stage. Hassan translated in Arabic literally means beautiful. Unfortunately it also meant I’d be targeted for racism and hate growing up. I’m used to having to get to airports a little early, or having people mispronounce my name, or having people assume things about me that are not true. The instances are too many to address here, but this one story sums up what it was like growing up in America with my heritage. In my sophomore year social studies class I sat behind a kid named Mike Keo. That kid called me racial slurs to my face every day and the teacher just sat there in silence. In fact, most of the adults whose job it was to protect me, sat in silence while this hate was happening.

 My freshman year I saw the tragic events of 9/11 unfold from a TV in my college dorm room. I was horrified by that tragedy and by stupid, racist, greedy wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I was angry at how our military was being used against people in the Middle East. People that look and speak like my family from Jordan. I saw first hand how racism fueled public support for war and I felt totally hopeless, alone, and afraid to speak out these events unfold like a slow moving train wreck.

 It’s with that personal background that I think about the decision to drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the decision to create internment camps to imprison innocent Japanese Americans during WW2. These decisions were based on false narratives and fear too. And these same forces of hate, fear, and xenophobia are on the rise today in a way they haven’t been in my lifetime. Again it’s our job in the peace movement to fight against false narratives, fear and hate and make people remember what connects us all as human beings.  

 Media:  

 This was a good trip for CAPA in the media department. Gabe Murphy, Peace Action’s Communications Director asked me for a quote for their press release and put me on the list as a media contact for US papers covering the anniversary. I’ve included PA’s entire press release below. In addition, a reporter from an Osaka newspaper interviewed me.  

Peace Action: 73 Years After First Nuclear Attack, The Nuclear Threat Persists

Washington, D.C. — August 3, 2018 — Seventy-three years ago, on August 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped the first nuclear bomb ever used in war on the city of Hiroshima, killing an estimated 80,000 people instantly. On August 9, the U.S. dropped a second nuclear bomb on Nagasaki, killing another 70,000, mostly civilians. By December of 1945, most estimates put the death toll at more than 200,000, though some believe that number is low.

Ahead of the anniversaries, Paul Kawika Martin, Senior Director for Policy and Political Affairs at Peace Action, spoke to the importance of marking these anniversaries. “Besides paying respect and commemorating the lives lost in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, marking the anniversaries offers the world an opportunity to reflect on the threat still posed by nuclear weapons, and more importantly, an opportunity to organize for their reduction and elimination.”

Addressing tensions with Iran and North Korea, Martin commented, “From President Trump’s repeated threats of nuclear war, to his reckless and unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, the nuclear threat under this presidency is the highest it’s been since the Cold War. Diplomacy with North Korea on the other hand, which Trump deserves some credit for pursuing, is one of the few causes for hope for reducing the nuclear threat during this presidency. But for talks to succeed, the administration needs to adopt a more patient, concrete and reciprocal approach to negotiations.”

“As the only country to ever use nuclear weapons in war,” Martin continued, “and as a signatory to the Nonproliferation Treaty, the United States has both a moral and legal obligation to negotiate in good faith with other nuclear-armed nations for the reduction and elimination of the world’s nuclear arsenals, including our own. Unfortunately, the Trump administration is instead moving forward with plans to spend $1.7 trillion adjusted for inflation on nuclear weapons over the next three decades.”

Speaking to current efforts in the U.S. and internationally to reduce the nuclear threat, Martin added, “from organizing around the nuclear weapons ban treaty that the United Nations adopted last year, to supporting legislation like Senator Ed Markey’s (D-MA) Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act, which would prevent the president from launching a nuclear first strike without congressional approval, activists the world over are working tirelessly to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again.”

Emily Rubino, the Grassroots Campaigns Coordinator for Peace Action New York State, is one such activist, and is in Japan representing Peace Action at events commemorating the bombings. Sharing her thoughts on the anniversaries, she remarked, “This year marks the 73rd anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the 60th anniversary of the Japan Peace March, spanning from Tokyo to Hiroshima over a period of three months. As I march through the Hiroshima prefecture, I feel more than ever that it is important for the U.S. to reconcile our horrible past. The average age of the Hibakusha, a survivor of nuclear disaster is over 80 years old, and the history of the horrors they faced at the hands of the United States is being forgotten by younger generations in Japan and in the United States. For the United States to even consider ever using nuclear weapons again is an insult to the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who know the horrors of these weapons all too well.”

Hassan El-Tayyab, the Policy and Organizing Director for Chicago Area Peace Action, is also in Japan to commemorate the anniversaries. Pointing to polling on nuclear weapons in the Trump era, El-Tayyab noted, “With a staggering 88 percent of the American public worried about the possibility of nuclear war under the Trump administration, and with the 2018 midterms fast approaching, the time is right for concerned citizens to double down on our collective political engagement to advance the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.”

 Conclusion:

Meeting the staff at Gensuiken, learning from our international delegation, seeing thousands of new faces at the conference, and knowing that we all share a commitment to a common goal — that gave much hope. Knowing that people around the globe share this deep commitment to a more peaceful world gives me hope. Together we must work across our borders and continue to strive for a world that prioritizes peace and our shared humanity over profit and war. We must work towards a world that embraces love and kindness over fear and hate. I look forward to working with people in America and all across the planet to achieve this aim. Thanks again for your support in getting me to Japan for this conference.

 Hassan El-Tayyab

Policy and Organizing Director

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09.22.19

40th ANNUAL