Welcome to Sadako Peace Day, which this year is also on Nagasaki Day – the day 62 years ago that Nagasaki was destroyed by a single nuclear weapon.

Please join me in a moment of silence for the victims of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and for Mayor Iccho Itoh of Nagasaki, who was cut down during this past year by an assassin’s bullet.

Three days ago, Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba of Hiroshima delivered the 2007 Hiroshima Peace Declaration. It began with this description:

“That fateful summer, 8:15. The roar of a B-29 breaks the morning calm. A parachute opens in the blue sky. Then suddenly, a flash, an enormous blast – silence – hell on Earth.” I will spare you the gory details he goes on to recount.

Now, 62 years later, we would be remiss not to ask: What lessons have we learned from the use of nuclear weapons? Judging from the fact that there are still 27,000 nuclear weapons in the world and 3,500 of these are on hair-trigger alert, it seems we have clearly not learned enough.

The overriding facts about nuclear weapons are that they kill massively and indiscriminately – soldiers and civilians; men, women and children; the aged and the newly born.

Weapons that kill indiscriminately are illegal under international law. Therefore, nuclear weapons are illegal under international law.

They are also immoral, cowardly and anti-democratic. In a world in which states rely upon nuclear weapons for security, children are not safe.

Nuclear weapons destroy cities, and are capable of destroying civilization and possibly the human species.

And there is no physical protection against nuclear weapons. Not duck and cover. Not deterrence. And certainly not missile defenses.

It should be obvious that if we want to create a world that is safe for our children, we must rid the world of nuclear weapons, and use the financial resources heretofore devoted to nuclear weapons – some $40 billion annually – for food, education, health care and housing.

It isn’t complicated. The survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had it right when they said, “Nuclear weapons and human beings cannot co-exist.” Which side are you on – that of steel-hearted nuclear weapons or that of humanity? We each choose by our actions.

We should not elect anyone to high office who believes that “all options are on the table.” That is code for “If state X does Y (Y being something we don’t like), we hold open the option of responding with nuclear weapons.” That is further code for “Do what we want, or we are willing to destroy you and to risk destroying the world.” That is not the kind of leader that we need – not if we want security and the assurance of a human future.

We need courageous leaders who will stop promoting nuclear double standards, meet their obligations under international law for nuclear disarmament, and lead us back from the nuclear precipice. We need leaders who have a vision of a nuclear weapons free world, and who are willing to act upon that vision – not leaders who try to outdo each other with their macho, nuclear or otherwise. We will not have such visionary and courageous leaders without an informed and active citizenry who make known and persist in pursuing an uncompromising demand for a nuclear weapons-free future.

I will end with a poem.


“If only I had known, I would have become a watch maker.” — Albert Einstein

In a parallel universe, Einstein sits at his workbench making watches. Light still curves around bodies of mass, but the watch maker knows nothing of it. He only makes watches, simple and precise. In this universe, Hiroshima and Nagasaki have no special meaning. David Krieger

David Krieger is the President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org)