On August 6, 1945 I was eight years old. I remember very clearly the horror I felt and how I cried. It was difficult to imagine that a human being could be capable of inflicting so much pain.
In the news they repeated the refrain that it was the only way to bring the Japanese to reason. Nuclear reaction, that could have provided humanity a source of energy, had been transformed into the deadliest of bombs. It was said that as early as 1939 Einstein had spoken with President Roosevelt concerning the possibility of fabricating very powerful bombs.
The problem that triggered the employment of the first nuclear bomb, as well as the second bomb that was released over Nagasaki three days later, was the same that we suffer today: the struggle for world domination.
Japan’s territorial expansion was a policy that logically, the U.S. could not allow to continue unchallenged. The ensuing American blockade, similar to the embargo that the U.S. has maintained against Cuba for several decades, involved the implementation of a wide range of trade sanctions and significantly reduced the export of petroleum to Japan. As a country prepared to open itself to world, Japan rejected the imposed conditions and initiated hostilities, attacking the U.S. naval base in Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, a hard blow that deeply humiliated the Americans. In the face of this ignominy, the United States fabricated the first nuclear weapons through a program headed by J. Robert Oppenheimer known as The Manhattan Project. When Harry Truman inherited the leadership of the most powerful country in the world following Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, he maintained the nuclear policy of his predecessor.
The first bomb was tested in New Mexico on July 14 and without any prior evaluation of the consequences, on the 6th and 9th of August, nuclear bombs were dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The strange, mushroom-shaped clouds that billowed over these Japanese cities would cause the immediate death of more than 200,000 people and provoke lifelong after effects in the populations of the surrounding zones. The fallout would be responsible for hundreds of thousands of cases of leukemia and other forms of cancer; diseases that would, over time, be genetically transmitted in populations within the affected zones.
Are armaments the only effective deterrents that governments can implement? The law of the jungle, by which the strongest and most powerful are the victors, still pervades. But victors in what sense? What, or who, reaps benefits from the grim harvest of human lives? Of what good are scientific advances that extend life if the same blind powers always decide that human lives are theirs to dispose of? As Federico Mayor Zaragoza has said, it is time to change our behavior. When a grave crisis affects humanity as a whole, the first step to take must be to modify attitudes and change these obsessions for domination, possession and authority. We must replace bombs with words through dialogue and negotiation.
We cannot accept the words of anyone who tells us that terror can only be fought with terror and rage.
Not everyone is qualified for a seat at a negotiating table, but there are capable individuals, who through their lifelong dedication to the noble work of negotiation have demonstrated its effectiveness. We cannot allow the conflagration of bombs to consume our hearts or destroy our hope.
I will be a member of the core team of the World March for Peace and Nonviolence that will circle the globe; making its way through 90 countries on six continents and calling out in a united voice for nuclear disarmament, the withdrawal of invading troops from occupied territories and the progressive and proportional reduction of conventional arms. To this list of goals I would add the end of arms production, the signing of non-aggression pacts between countries, and the renunciation of war as a sole means of conflict resolution by all governments.
Many of us are convinced that another way of negotiating peace is possible. As common citizens we desire to live in peace and harmony, but those who believe themselves to be the masters of the world and all that Mother Earth offers each and every one of us to enjoy, do not let us. Now the time has come for citizens to make their voices heard all over the world. No more useless deaths in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Israel, Colombia or Africa, in whose wake a select few to revel in their power and amass wealth. I recall the words of the great artist Oswaldo Guayasamín, who said, “The world will not achieve peace while frontiers, flags and national anthems still exist.” The world is the common heritage of all of us. Uniting our voices, we will protect our hearts from the searing flames of conflict and hate and come together in an embrace that resonates with the beating of our hearts. Let’s protest for a world of dignity, a world of human beings.
*(Translator: Jenni Lukac)*