By Tim Devereux
Chair, Movement for the Abolition of War
This year, as many before, there were events in Bradford and Keighley to commemorate the dropping of atomic bomb on Hiroshima, 6th August, 1945, and in Leeds three days later remembering the Nagasaki bombing, 9th August, 1945. From outrage at the bombing of Guernica in the Spanish Civil War in 1937 – less than 2000 civilian casualties, in just eight years, the world witnessed these two terrible bombings, which killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people, most of whom were civilians.
Susan Clarkson read Fr Daniel Berrigan’s poem ‘Some’ at the Bradford Hiroshima Commemoration Service outside City Hall (https://danielberrigan.org/poems/). While the Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Martin Love, read out the message to the world from the Mayor of Hiroshima.
At the Keighley commemoration, too, the Mayor, Councillor Luke Maunsell delivered the same message, which can be read here: https://www.tellerreport.com/life/2022-08-06-hiroshima-peace-memorial-ceremony-%5Bfull-peace-declaration%5D.Byz-_Hrip5.html
(Apologies for the garish adverts on the site!)
In Leeds, the commemoration began with a two-minute silence, at 11.02, the time the bomb was dropped. Councillor Jane Dowson gave a reading of the Nagasaki Peace Declaration, (https://www.peace-ed-campaign.org/nagasaki-peace-declaration/) as the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Cllr. Robert W. Gettings, was unable to attend due to illness.
Each year I am moved by this ceremony, but each year is an admission that the world is still under the threat of nuclear annihilation. Russia’s attack on Ukraine has been an unpleasant reminder of the dangers of nuclear brinkmanship. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientist’s Doomsday Clock (https://edition.cnn.com/2022/01/20/world/doomsday-clock-2022-climate-scn/index.html) stands at 100 seconds to midnight – closer than ever before!
Pope Francis says, “The Holy See has no doubts that a world free from nuclear weapons is both necessary and possible,” and denounced schemes that give a false sense of security based on possession of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.
As I write this, the Tenth Review Conference for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is taking place. I was a young man, just finishing University when the Non-Proliferation Treaty came into force in 1970. It is a landmark international treaty whose objectives include preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. Its effect on proliferation has been positive – there were five nuclear weapon states in 1970, and there are nine now. The number of nuclear weapons has fallen from a peak of 61,662 in 1985 to 13,400 in 2020 – still plenty to make certain of ‘overkill’!
Under Article 6 of the NPT, all Parties undertake to pursue good-faith negotiations on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race, to nuclear disarmament, and to general and complete disarmament. I am a patient person, but 52 years is far too long to NOT reach the promised disarmament agreement!
There is another treaty that is much younger and I think more hopeful – the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) which came into force on 22 January 2021. Nuclear weapons have always been immoral. Now they are also illegal in all respects under international law, with one proviso – a country must sign up to the treaty before its requirements take effect. None of the top 5 nuclear powers have signed. Strange, I remember pro-nuclear types castigating CND for ‘one-sided disarmament’. But along comes a great multilateral treaty, and that’s no good either! The UK, impoverished by Covid 19, Brexit, and now a cost-of-living crisis, needs to scrap Trident, save £200 Billion and sign the TPNW. Humanity faces two existential threats – the Climate Crisis and Nuclear Weapons – we need to act on both right now!