Steve Leeper, the West High School grad who is the first non-Japanese person to head the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, is terribly worried that despite everything the world knows about nuclear weapons, we're still headed down a path of self-destruction.
The war on terror is but one flash point. The turmoil in Pakistan is another. The U.S. assistance to India's nuclear ambitions is still another.
Leeper, who was home visiting his mother, Midge Miller, over the holidays, points to a recent debate of Democratic presidential candidates in which the participants were asked if they would ever OK the use of nuclear weapons against Iran if it pursued its own nuclear bomb program.
Not one of them responded that nukes would be out of the question, but left the option to use them on the table.
The fact that the question was even asked, he said during a visit to the office, shows that we still have our heads in the wrong place. There are even U.S. military experts who believe that "small" nukes can still be useful weapons on the battlefield. Don't we know, Leeper asked, that to use nuclear weapons in this day and age would surely destroy civilization as we know it?
The answer, obviously, is no. Many still believe that we can drop a bomb, like we did on Hiroshima and Nagasaki back in 1945 when we were the only country in the world to have nukes, and solve a problem like George Bush says we have in Iran.
The people of Hiroshima know firsthand what A-bombs do. There are still survivors of Aug. 6, 1945 -- many of them children at the time -- who today are suffering everything from cancers to blood diseases and living out their days in five institutions that care for them. It's why the city of Hiroshima contributes $12 million a year to the Peace Culture Foundation in an effort to get the world to stop building and begin destroying nuclear weapons.
Leeper himself will conduct two speaking tours in the United States during the coming year. He mainly visits college campuses to try to get young people to understand the truth about nukes and their destructive power, hoping to convince future U.S. leaders that the world will never be safe as long as nuclear weapons are part of the military arsenal.
Leeper, who heads a staff of 110 that travels and organizes worldwide, is worried that a terrorist group could set off a small nuclear bomb at one of our nuclear power plants near a major U.S. city and, in effect, kill and poison millions. That would lead us to respond with nukes, and the escalation would be under way.
That's why it's so important that we begin work now to get rid of all these world-ending weapons.
Dave Zweifel is editor of The Capital Times.
© 2008 Capital Newspapers