We are gathered for this Citizens’ Assembly to re-commit ourselves to assuring that no other city will ever again suffer the terrible nuclear devastation experienced by Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It is time to build on the important work already done by the hibakusha, by Abolition 2000 and others, to create a full-fledged global campaign to eliminate all nuclear weapons from Earth.
We are gathered here because the future matters.
Nuclear weapons are powerful, but not as powerful as human beings. Nuclear weapons can only defeat us if we allow them to do so.
Nuclear weapons have the power to create the final unalterable silence, but only if humanity is silent in the face of their threat.
Nuclear weapons have the power to destroy us, but also to unite us.
We must choose how we will use and control the technological possibilities we have created. We can choose to continue to place most of life, including the human species, at risk of annihilation, or we can choose the path of eliminating nuclear weapons and working for true human security. It is clear that nuclear weapons pose a species-wide threat to us that demands a species-wide response.
Nuclear weapons are not really weapons. They are devices of unimaginable destruction that draw no boundaries between soldiers and civilians, men and women, the old and the young. The stories of the hibakusha attest to this. Nuclear weapons have no true military purpose since their use would cause utter devastation. We know the hell on Earth they created at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Despite this knowledge, some countries continue to rely upon these weapons for what they call national security.
If terrorism is the threat to injure or kill the innocent, then nuclear weapons are the ultimate instruments of terrorism. They are held on constant alert, ready to destroy whole cities, whole populations. They are corrupting by their very presence in a society. They contribute to a culture of secrecy, while undermining democracy, respect for life, human dignity, and even our human spirits.
Nuclear weapons should awaken our survival instincts and arouse our human spirits to resistance.
The survivors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the hibakusha, have persistently reminded us that human beings and nuclear weapons cannot coexist indefinitely. The relationship is bound to end in future tragedies, if for no other reason than that we humans are fallible creatures and cannot indefinitely maintain infallible systems.
We must have a global movement that joins with the hibakusha and builds upon their efforts to save the world from future Nagasakis and Hiroshimas. In doing so, we will save our human spirits as well. Nuclear weapons should awaken our survival instincts and arouse the human spirit to resistance.
As we approach our task of seeking to eliminate all nuclear weapons from the arsenals of all countries, we must remember that there is no legitimate authority vested in governments to place the future of humanity and other forms of life at risk of obliteration. The authority of governments comes only from their people. Governments lose their authority when they become destructive of basic rights, including the rights to life, liberty and security of person as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Peace is not the province of governments. It is the province of the people. It is a responsibility that rests upon our shoulders. If we turn over the responsibility for peace to the governments of the world, we will always have war. I am convinced that the people know far more about achieving and maintaining peace and human dignity than the so-called experts – political, military or academic – will ever know.
As far back as 1968, when the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was signed by the US, UK and Soviet Union, these states promised good faith negotiations to achieve nuclear disarmament. Although this treaty entered into force in 1970, the nuclear weapons states made virtually no efforts to act on this obligation. Twenty-five years later at the NPT Review and Extension Conference in 1995, the nuclear weapons states again promised the “determined pursuit…of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goals of eliminating those weapons….” Five years later at the 2000 NPT Review Conference, the nuclear weapons states again promised an “unequivocal undertaking … to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals….”
So far, all they have done is play with words and promises. They have shown no sincerity in keeping their promises or fulfilling their obligations. If we wait for the governments of the nuclear weapons states to act in good faith, we may well experience future Nagasakis and Hiroshimas. The abolition of nuclear weapons cannot wait for governments to act in good faith. The people must act, and they must do so as if their very lives depend on it — because they do.
We are not only citizens of the country where we reside; we are also citizens of the world. Citizenship implies responsibilities. We each have responsibilities to our families, our communities and to our world community.
As we enter the 21st century, we must accept our responsibilities as citizens of the world. I offer you this Earth Citizen Pledge: “I pledge allegiance to the Earth and to its varied life forms; one world, indivisible, with liberty, justice and dignity for all.” This pledge moves national loyalty to a higher level – to the Earth – and incorporates the principle aim of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that all persons deserve to be treated with dignity.
The organization I lead, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, is committed to waging peace. We believe in a proactive approach to peace. Peace must be waged, that is, pursued vigorously. Peace does not just happen to us. We must make it happen. We must build effective global institutions of peace such as an International Criminal Court and we must strengthen existing institutions such as the United Nations and its International Court of Justice so that they can better fulfill their mandates. We cannot turn decisions on war and peace over to national governments. This is what led to World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and countless others. It is what led to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The primary goal of our Foundation is the same goal that motivates the hibakusha of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It is the goal of abolishing all nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth. It is, in my opinion, the most important responsibility of our time. It is a responsibility that should dominate the human agenda until it is realized.
Our Foundation is a founding member of the Abolition 2000 Global Network and has served in recent years as its international contact. The Network has now grown to more than 2000 organizations and municipalities in 95 countries. It is one of the world’s largest civil society networks. It connects abolitionists across the globe. Its principle aim is to achieve a treaty for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Developing a strategy to achieve this goal is the Network’s most important task.
The time is overdue for an effective global campaign aimed at dramatically changing the policies of the nuclear weapons states. In the words of Jonathan Schell, we have been given “The Gift of Time.” But time is running out. General Lee Butler has pointed out that we have been given a Second Chance by a gracious Creator, but there may not be a third chance.
We need to focus our attention on a global campaign to awaken a dormant humanity. I would propose that this campaign must include the following elements:
First, we need clear simple messages that can reach people’s hearts and move them to action. Examples might include: Destroy the bomb, not the children. End the nuclear threat to humanity. No security in weapons of mass murder. Sunflowers instead of missiles. A nuclear war can have no winners. Nuclear war, humanity loses.
Second, these messages must be spread by word of mouth and by all forms of media, particularly the Internet. Basic information on the need for abolition and ideas for what a person can do may be found at wagingpeace.org.
Third, we must have an easily recognizable symbol to accompany the messages. We already have this, the Sunflower. We must make better use of it. Sunflowers should be sent regularly to all leaders of nuclear weapons states, along with substantive messages calling for abolition.
Fourth, we must enlist major public figures to help us spread the messages. We must use public service announcements as well as paid advertisements. We have already succeeded in having many leading world figures sign an Appeal to End the Nuclear Weapons Threat to Humanity. This Appeal states clearly that “nuclear weapons are morally and legally unjustifiable,” and calls for de-alerting all nuclear weapons and for “good faith negotiations to achieve a Nuclear Weapons Convention requiring the phased elimination of all nuclear weapons….” Signers include Mayor Itoh of Nagasaki and Mayor Akiba of Hiroshima, former US President Jimmy Carter, Harrison Ford, Michael Douglas, Muhammad Ali, Barbra Streisand, and 36 Nobel Laureates, including 14 Nobel Peace Laureates.
Fifth, we must target certain key groups in society: youth groups, women’s groups, and religious groups. We must work especially to motivate youth to become active in assuring their future; to inform women’s groups of the threat nuclear policies pose to their families; and to alert religious groups to the moral imperative of nuclear weapons abolition.
Sixth, we must provide an action plan to these groups. Each group, for example, could select key decision makers at the local level (a member of Congress or parliamentarian) and at the national level or international level (President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Defense Minister, etc.). The group would be charged with sending monthly letters and sunflowers to their key decision makers, particularly US decision makers, trying to persuade that individual to take more effective action for nuclear abolition. This would, of course, be a worldwide effort.
Seventh, best practices and successes can be shared by means of the Internet, including our web site www.wagingpeace.org.
Eighth, we must not give up until we have achieved our goal, and we must not settle for the partial measures offered by the nuclear weapons states that continue a two-tier system of nuclear “haves” and “have-nots.”
We must continue to speak out. We must find ways to compel large masses of our fellow humans to listen to the message of the hibakusha.
We have a choice. We can end the nuclear weapons era, or we can run the risk that nuclear weapons will end the human era. The choice should not be difficult. In fact, the vast majority of humans would choose to eliminate nuclear weapons. Today, a small number of individuals in a small number of countries are holding humanity hostage to a nuclear holocaust. To change this situation and assure a future free of nuclear threat, people everywhere must exercise their rights to life and make their voices heard. They must speak out and act before it is too late. They must demand an end to the nuclear weapons era.
Our dream is not an impossible dream. It is something that we can accomplish in our lifetimes. Slavery was abolished, the Berlin Wall fell, apartheid ended in South Africa. We need to bring the spirit of the hibakusha to bear on nuclear weapons. Our goal of a world free of nuclear weapons will be achieved by individual commitment and discipline, and by joining together in a great common effort. Achieving our goal will be a victory for all humanity, for all future generations.
Each of us is a miracle, and every part of life is miraculous. In opposing nuclear weapons and warfare, we are not only fighting against something. We are fighting for the miracle of life.
Our cause is right. It is just. It is timely. We will prevail because we must prevail.
*David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. This speech was a keynote address at the Nagasaki Global Citizens’ Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.