Published on Friday, August 9, 2002 in the Madison Capital Times
Earlier this week Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba blasted the United States - and President George Bush, in particular - for trying to "unilaterally determine the fate of the world."
He suggested that the administration's post-Sept. 11 policies were misguided and called for a worldwide ban on weapons of mass destruction in remarks delivered on the 57th anniversary of the atomic bomb being unleashed on the city he governs.
Today, on the anniversary of the atomic bombing of another Japanese city, Nagasaki, Akiba's sentiments deserve our serious consideration. Japan, as the only nation to have been attacked with nuclear weapons in war, knows the full extent of what nuclear war means. That experience has been at the heart of their national policy, known as the three non-nuclear principles - no ownership, no production, and no presence of nuclear weapons on Japanese territory.
Though the top aide to Japan's prime minister suggested a few months ago it might be time to end the sacrosanct policy, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi stressed Japan's "unwavering commitment to its war-renouncing constitution" at this week's ceremonies. And there is no doubt of Akiba's commitment.
During last year's ceremony, Akiba noted in his Peace Declaration that the "calendar end to the 'century of war' has not automatically ushered in a century of peace and humanity." To help bring about that change, Akiba and the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki hosted the World Conference of Mayors for Peace.
The conference was specifically organized to abolish nuclear weapons and realize world peace through "truth-guided solidarity among cities, the entities that will carry most prominently the torch of humanity in the 21st century," Akiba declared. "It is no mere fantasy to believe that in the future, member cities of this conference will lead other municipalities in expanding the circle of nuclear free authorities until ultimately the entire Earth becomes one solid nuclear free zone."
Akiba's fears are not groundless, as Bush's dismissal of our commitment to the ABM Treaty and his interest in militarizing space with the Stars Wars program prove. Madisonian Midge Miller is one of the people working to put an end to nuclear weapons. Miller, who lived in Japan after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, sees Bush's space-based nuclear "shield" project once again raising the prospects of nuclear violence.
In fact, she was in Washington, D.C., battling Bush's wild-eyed schemes on Sept. 11. "We spent 50 years trying to get the genie back in the bottle," Miller said last year, referring to the nuclear threat. "Now, this fool wants to let it out."
Surprisingly Madison is not one of the more than 500 cities from 103 countries around the world affiliated with Akiba's Mayors for Peace initiative. We are, however, already a "nuclear free zone" and have been since the City Council passed such an ordinance in 1983.
The fact that Madison declared itself a nuclear free zone was seen as a joke then and perhaps some folks still think it is amusing. But Akiba is serious about communities working together for peace. Madison has a long history of doing just that and should follow the lead of Miller and Akiba in actively working toward the intertwined goals of peace and an end to nuclear weapons.
For more information on nuclear weapons, the Mayors for Peace and the experiences of the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, visit www.pcf.hiroshima.jp/peacesite.
Copyright 2002 The Capital Times