Mark & Jenny Semet
Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing, upon accepting the Nobel Peace prize on behalf of ICAN (The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) earlier this year made an observation on all the victims of that event. She said: “each person that day had a name, [and] each person was loved by someone”. (Bolten & Welty, Independence, Missouri talk, 4-28-18).
A Humanitarian Approach to Handling Nuclear Disarmament was a talk which included two speakers from ICAN who spoke on the subject of nuclear awareness and disarmament. The information was astounding as to the approach to the problem. One main theme was the recognition of the core belief of ICAN, that anyone can work to create change to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons worldwide.
Dr. Scott Roberson introduced Dr. Matthew Bolton, the Associate Chair of Political Science at Pace University in New York state and who is a former resident of Independence. Dr. Emily Welty, who also spoke is the Vice Moderator of the World Council of Churches Commission on International Affairs. Robertson indicated that “Dr. Bolton and Dr. Welty are part of the international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons for ICAN. ICAN is a coalition of non-governmental organizations from 100 countries that advocate for a nuclear weapon ban treaty in the United Nations.” (Roberson, Independence, Missouri talk, 4-28-18).
The ICAN website is http://www.icanw.org
The first video I have labeled as ‘the problem’. For this and all later videos, some of the written quotes and paraphrased comments are loosely narrated, and their accuracy needs to be confirmed by listening to the videos, otherwise disregard any comments that are not supported by actual statements made in the videos.
The problem as Dr. Bolton may have alluded to in a statement is that “atomic bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed more 200,000 people in 1945 alone. Those who survived…have suffered a wide spectrum of radiation related diseases including cancers, heart disease, and infertility. The health effects of the bombings have been passed down to children and grandchildren.” (Bolten & Welty, Independence, Missouri talk, 4-28-18).
A number of other statements including one by Dr. Bolton indicated that not only Japanese people suffered the impact of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but over “Twenty-two thousand Korean coerced laborers died in those bombings and 30,000 survived the atomic bombings”. Reportedly there were allied prisoners of war in both the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. (Bolten & Welty, Independence, Missouri talk, 4-28-18).
Dr. Bolton also reported that “the late Charles Deneff (sp), a Community of Christ leader was an officer in the U.S Navy at the time of the atomic bombs were and was deployed with the Occupation Forces to Hiroshima three weeks after the atomic bombs. Reportedly Neff stated, “what I saw and felt there is indelibly etched into my mind, my heart, my soul’…Neff concluded that “the fashion of nuclear weapons and the threat to use them is a sin, a sin, a sin against God, against God’s likenesses or humans, and against God’s creations.”. (Bolten & Welty, Independence, Missouri talk, 4-28-18).
Reportedly Neff was among the 240,00 allied troops from five countries who were deployed to the hazardous zones after World war II ended, including 195,000 Americans. Neff goes on to indicated that many of these soldiers and their families have suffered tremendous health difficulties, consistent with exposure to radiation from the event. A conclusion which Bolton draws from this is that from the very beginning of the nuclear age then, the harm of nuclear weapons has been widespread, indiscriminate and multinational. An example given by Bolton was that between 1945 and 1996 nuclear weapons were tested in seventeen countries.” (Bolten & Welty, Independence, Missouri talk, 4-28-18).
As I mentioned before this first and all later videos, any of my written quotes and paraphrased comments are loosely narrated, and their accuracy will need to be confirmed by listening to the videos. Otherwise please disregard any comments that are not supported by actual statements made in the videos. Transcripts of the second and all other tapes will be transcribed into an attached word document entitled “Additional transcripts of A Humanitarian Approach to Handling Nuclear Disarmament”.
Please see Part two of this text.
A Summary of a Humanitarian Approach to Handling Nuclear Disarmament
From the first video mentioned in the Facebook post, I have identified as The Problem, Dr. Scott Roberson introduced Dr. Matthew Bolton, the Associate Chair of Political Science at Pace University in New York state and who is a former resident of Independence. Dr. Emily Welty, who also spoke is the Vice Moderator of the World Council of Churches Commission on International Affairs. Robertson indicated that “Dr. Bolton and Dr. Welty are part of the international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons for ICAN. ICAN is a coalition of non-governmental organizations from 100 countries that advocate for a nuclear weapon ban treaty in the United Nations.” (Roberson, Independence, Missouri talk, 4-28-18).
The ICAN website is http://www.icanw.org
(The following information is from additional transcripts of videos of the talk “A Humanitarian Approach to Handling Nuclear Disarmament” taken from videos. Any of the written quotes and paraphrased comments below are loosely narrated, and their accuracy will need to be confirmed by listening to the videos. Otherwise please disregard any comments that are not supported by actual statements made in the videos.)
Damage to Life and Accidents
Dr. Bolton and Dr. Welty visited Christmas Island in January. Dr. Bolton stated, “a member of the Survivors’ Association told us how frightening it was like to be a child during the nuclear weapons testing. Soldiers gathered residents in the main plaza of the village giving them blankets and telling them to face away from the explosion. Some, but not all were given sunglasses. Children, some antsy, squirmed out of their parents’ grasp and at the dreaded moment were blinded by the flashing skies.’ Teowa (sp.) tells me that she and many other survivors suffered from health problems consistent with radiation exposure, some of the children born decades later. None of those people on that island, who are indigenous people have ever been compensated or helped for the harm that they were posed? Christmas Island is also a crucial ground and migration stop for its population of 6 million birds. The nuclear tests killed thousands of those birds in the 50’s and 60’s and blinding and scorching thousands more. Fish and foliage were destroyed in this fragile and complex ecosystem. Many former test sites are now contaminated with dangerous levels of radiation, and here in the U.S. our government detonated 1,014 nuclear devices in 945 tests within or about the continental United States mostly at the Nevada test site. The Federal government now recognizes the people in twelve western states, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Idaho, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, Texas, and South Dakota have ‘developed serious serious illnesses due to radiation exposure because of the tests. Between 1992 and March 2016, the Department of Justice approves 3,963 radioactive exposure claims for on-site participants of the tests but almost another but almost another 20,000 from down winders, people who lived downwind from the test site. Many have contracted cancer and many other diseases as a result. As a result, the threat and risk of nuclear weapons is not solely in the past. It’s not a cold war thing. There some 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, many on high alert able to be launched in minutes. The vast majority of these belong to the United States and Russia. There is a horrifying history of accidents, close calls and mechanical and human error that continues today. In many ways we are most under threat here in the United States from our own nuclear weapons. There are inherently unstable pieces of machinery that can fail at any moment as any decent technology.”
Kansas City Nuclear Parts Plant
Dr. Bolton, “Some 85% of the non-nuclear parts of American nuclear weapons are produced or procured at the Kansas City plant, operations by Honeywell. A 2009, a Government Accountability Office report, raised questions about the risk of proliferation of having the supply chain of U.S. nuclear weapons out sourced to a private contractor. The effects of a nuclear detonation are so horrifying that our brain often shuts off when we think about them. It seems either abstract or a generalized horror, so it could be helpful to review specifically what nuclear weapons do to people, to their communities and their environments. In the first twenty-four hours following the detonation of a Russian…missile over the Independence square, 40,000 people would die, 60,000 people would be injured. With a yield of 800 kilotons this missile is fifty-three times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, but it is less than eighteen times smaller than the largest device that the U.S. is testing. The fireball would incinerate everything from west 23rd street in the south to highway 24 in the north. Between fifty to ninety per cent of the people from the intersection of East Truman and South Sterling almost to 291 Highway would die from radiation poisoning in the following two weeks. Concrete buildings as far as Lees Summit Road would be demolished, houses and less sturdy buildings would be destroyed as far as Worlds of Fun. Everyone between here and Raytown would suffer third degree burns if they survived. Wind patterns would carry the deadly or sickening radiation levels for several hundred miles, almost to Iowa city. People and animals in this fallout zone could be baring the negative health effects for several generations.”
Cost and ICAN’S Success
As Setsuko Thurlow, survivor of the Hiroshima bombing who accepted the Nobel Peace prize on behalf of ICAN, (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) said “each person that day had a name, each person was loved by someone”. This is all very upsetting and seems totally intractable. However, given the global extent of the ongoing and potential harm of nuclear weapons use and testing, there are opportunities for solidarity across national boundaries. Learning about the suffering of nuclear survivors close to home, can enable them to be, for those further away and create possibilities for education about the global story of nuclear harm. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN, was founded in 2007 to try to learn from the successes of the global civil society advocacy on land mines and cluster emissions. With member organizations from around the world, we have successfully pushed governments to make the conversation about humanitarian, human rights and environmental dimensions of nuclear weapons, not just theories of dimensions. Most governments around the world see these weapons as expensive, dangerous, and a threat to their people. They are angry and they are fed up with nuclear arms states failing to fulfill the repeated promises they made to disarm. The five largest nuclear arms states are legally obligated to disarm under the same 1968 nuclear non-proliferation treaty that they used to condemn other countries that…their arsenal. In 2017,122 governments negotiated and adopted a new treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons at the U.N. in New York. Those of us working on the ICAN advocacy persuaded these governments to make the treaty the first ever to…arms control agreement to frame nuclear arms in moral, ethical, humanitarian, human rights and environmental term, stressing the generative facts of radiation and the harm to indigenous people. The treaty established a categorical prohibition against nuclear weapons seeking to stigmatize them as unacceptable. As the treaty’s preamble puts it nuclear weapons are abhorrent to the principles of humanity and dictate of public conscience.”
We the People and Women, People of Color Must Lead
We cannot leave the process of disarmament of nuclear weapons to politicians and diplomats. One of the exciting parts about this process is the way ordinary people, like us have been able to meaningfully engage in this process. Even the diplomats were part of the negotiating conference credited the work of everyday people in the initiative behind the treaty. Women had a leading role in the nuclear ban from the leadership of ICAN, which is largely female to the many delegations of diplomats. People of color have also had a leading role in the process, from the government to the civil society that pushed for it.
For many of you in this room your generation created nuclear weapons. It was the legacy I was born into. It’s the legacy that all our students were born into, but it is in common in all of us to get rid of them. That to me is the thing you can leave behind, the thing we’re remembered for. Nuclear weapons are not inevitable.
Morality of Love
Like any oppressive social instruction, they were created by humans and they can be dismantled by the fierce love, commitment and determination that this is not the world we were meant to live in. In the context of teaching Peace and Justice studies, I’ve often used the framing of Cornell West, who says, “justice is love, made visible.”
What We Can Do
So, to this idea that we should just be patient and let other people have a magical secret knowledge about this, take care of things, I simply say no. No, I will not live under the constant threat of annihilation of everything I love and simply hope for the best. No, I will not hope that a small group of people in small secret offices somewhere are responsible enough to take care of these weapons and somehow these intractable conflicts will be solved without the engagement of all the rest of us. So then, what do you do? You look at where your money is invested and you push your financial institutions to direct from nuclear weapons and move your money if they don’t. You should also be looking at the institutions that you love and support, to make sure they are engaging in ethical investment policies, which is a critical way to make sure that our lives and our resources reflect the value that we profess. Another thing you can do is push for nuclear weapons free cities.
One City’s Example
The city of Independence is really a good example of this. We are grateful that the city has shown leadership in addressing the impact of nuclear weapons as a member city of Mayors for Peace. We encourage the city and its residents to keep pushing forward. The city council might consider adopting a resolution declaring itself a nuclear weapons free zone. The city and residents might consider supporting nuclear disarmament education which is called for in the treaty. Ask your religious community to publicly speak out on the issue of nuclear weapons. They need to so every single year until we get rid of nuclear weapons. It would be very easy for faith communities to become one of the interfaith partners that has worked with the World Council of Churches. If you are interested in doing that, I’m more than happy to make that connection for you.
Billie Holliday Quote: The Fight for Peace
As artist and activist Billie Holliday said, “The difficult I’ll do right now, the impossible will take a little while.” Nothing is changed by throwing up our hands and claiming that the task in front of us is impossible. There is a simple and clear choice. Do you want to live in a world that is continually threatened by the absolute annihilation of what you love and hold dear, or do you, believe that a new world is possible? And if you do believe that we humans are meant for good, then there is a very clear decision to be made about your position on nuclear weapons.
Modernize Nuclear Weapons
The best way to modernize nuclear weapons is to modernize them out of existence. That would be the safest for us and everyone. It’s a slippery and tricky way of framing because it makes you choose whether you want old, awful ones that are a little bit more unstable or newer ones that are always unstable, but newer.
The Doomsday Machine
There’s a fantastic new book out by Daniel Ellsberg, who to many of you is a familiar name. He is a long-time friend of the peace movement. His book has a lot of the secrets that he learned as an insider that he’s been sitting on for a while and now it’s time for the end of his career he is saying it’s time for truth time. This book is called The Doomsday Machine. One of the points it makes is that Americans specifically have a very comfortable fiction about nuclear weapons that works extremely well if you’re writing a sit-com or an action movie. But it does not, based on the way nuclear weapons work. The fiction is this. We have the idea that it’s perpetuated by these dramatic structures that there is just one person who has a code, that there is one button that is pushed. That’s not true. It’s not just one person that has command over our nuclear arsenal and studies have been done that demonstrate that people who are in these positions that have the power to launch nuclear devices suffer from the same range of depression, mental illness, psychological break as the rest of the population.
President is Incapable
I think to frame it as only the decisions of Presidents. This is a historic moment that has come about because a lot of civil society works and everyday contact with North and South Koreans who should be holding a lot of the credit for this and I’m very concerned with what I find is that Americans find the tendency to see something fantastic happen in the world and figure out how maybe we may have contributed to it. So, in the moment in which we see the president of South Korea shake hands and sit down together and issue the agreement that was issued the other day is a moment we shouldn’t all figure out how we could take credit for it. It is a moment for humility, it is a moment for celebration for thinking what is possible.
Righteousness of Civil Disobedience
Most countries now believe nuclear weapons are illegal. That’s what the treaty says. It bans them under international law. The same kind of international law that bans chemical weapons. Judges in this country have been reluctant to allow international law to be used as a defense, but as a rhetorical defense as a line of argumentation it’s powerful one to present them with the treaty saying, this is what we’re doing, calling out the greater legality than walking across an arbitrary line.
Educating the Public, Pt. 1
Question From the audience: how can we go about educating the public on just how horrific these weapons are?
If what you do is write plays, then write a play about nuclear weapons. If what you do is write documentaries. Really encourage people to work in whatever departments and whatever vocation you are in. There are a lot of people who are widely seeing more documentaries about nuclear weapons, especially this past year. The part of the challenge will be changing the narrative to a proactive approach that starts telling the story on its ordinary basis instead of hearing another scary threat that’s happening.
German Officers Can Drop the Bomb
U.S. Nuclear Complex relies on a lot of people being either being quiet about things or co-operating in a lot of different ways. A lot of people don’t realize that there are significant number of weapons that are deployed outside the United States. For example, in Germany German officers have prior authorization to use U.S. nuclear weapons. In the Netherlands, most people in public opinion polls say they do not want the U.S. nuclear weapons in Germany. They want them back in the U.S.
Mark & Jenny Semet