Takashi Tanemori stands on a makeshift stage on the back of a truck parked at an intersection near Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California. Tanemori San's formal traditional Japanese dress and his silver hair riffles in the chill morning breeze. His voice is firm and clear over the roars of large trucks passing.
"I came to the United States forty years ago to avenge the death of my family killed by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima."
In the pantheon of stories about that August 6, 1944 his is both unique and ubiquitous. His parents and his four-month-old sister died that day...along with 200,000 other Japanese.
Tanemori's surviving three siblings ranged in age from four to fourteen; he was eight. For years he fought rats for food scraps, slept anywhere he could, and longed for human comfort. At sixteen he attempted suicide...then he apologized to his father's memory for that "dishonorable act" and then he vowed revenge. He traveled to the U.S. and was quickly interned in a camp where he had to pick Thompson Grapes. ("To this day," he says, "I cannot eat grapes.")
He became ill and was, first, diagnosed with pesticide-related food poisoning. When doctors learned he was Hibakusha (A-bomb survivor) he became, he says, "a guinea pig." Despite the excruciating pain, doctors repeatedly had nurses hold down their young patient, take his blood, and tap his spinal fluid to test the results of radiation poisoning. When Tanemori, who spoke only Japanese, finally fought them off, he was moved to a psychiatric institution to undergo many doses of electro-therapy.
As Takashi Tanemori speaks, a passing truck driver shouts out. "Bullsh*t! F**k all that bullsh*t!"
This man is a son. Is he also a father? Does he know LLNL is the most sophisticated nuclear weapons research and design facility in the world? Or is he, like most of us, too busy to pay attention? Is he too busy working to pay the bills for the minutiae of his one, individual life? Too busy to protest the overwhelming debt he -- of us -- incur to pay for the perils born at this lab? Too busy to recognize his place in humanity's fragile interconnectedness?
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, targets for atomic experiments
Norman Solomon, author, and founder of the Institute for Public Accuracy, takes the stage. "The nuclear age was born in deception of the facts, of the human realities of these weapons... and in silence, avoidance, and through psychic numbing. These weapons are lied about constantly, by our leaders, by our news media, and by ourselves."
Indeed, in 1979 Solomon researched the first official United States document that listed atomic targets. Titled "Announced United States Nuclear Tests," at the top of that list is Trinity at New Mexico's Alamogordo Test Range; second is Hiroshima; third is Nagasaki.
Solomon tells us, "The moral opposition to the Nazi regime was grounded in opposing that genocidal mentality and opposing experimentation on human beings without their voluntary and informed consent. In a real sense, though, the history of the last seven decades has been that of experimentation on human being without their consent: the bombs dropped on the Japanese; the Native Americans sent into the radon ovens of uranium mines; the people of the Pacific and [Americans] downwind of nuclear test sites; tens of thousands of military personnel exposed at test sites; the fuel fabricators at Oak Ridge and Rocky Flats; workers at Los Alamos, Livermore, Nevada, Hanford and other places where radioactive revenues create huge profit for some -- and abject misery for others."
Even as President Obama talks the talk -- "pursuing policies to end the nuclear arms race" -- he walks the walk of "modernization" that escalates that same arms race.
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"This" says Solomon, "is The Big Lie ...that it is 'technological advance' when, really, it is 'technological suicide.'"
At the May 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference participating countries, including the U.S., agreed on a unanimous intent to seek abolition of nuclear weapons.
Yet, years ago Solomon's research included interviewing State Department officials who told him that it is the top officials of Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia labs that "fight tooth and nail to ensure that the U.S. Senate never passes the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty" (CTBT).
In keeping with The Big Lie, the Obama administration's budget for fiscal year 2011 -- to "modernize the nuclear weapons complex" -- authorizes the largest nuclear weapons budget ever: 14 percent larger than last year's budget and larger than the average budget during the Cold War -- even adjusted for inflation. It includes building three new bomb plants: one at Los Alamos (NM) to enable plutonium production: one at Oak Ridge (TN) to build uranium secondaries; one in Kansas City (MO) for other weapons' components. These facilities enable the build of 80 entirely new nuclear weapons per year...at a cost of $80 billion over the next ten years. "Modernizing" the arsenal itself costs another $100 billion.
It took Tanemori San more than forty years to overcome his rage and his desire to avenge his family. Ironically, the warmth of another nurse touched him and, he says, "began to thaw out my heart frozen by hatred." But it was his young daughter who issued the coup de grace to his unmitigated desire for revenge.
"Daddy, I know you came here to kill those who killed our family. But isn't there any other way? For the children of those you do not kill -- just as they did not kill you in Hiroshima -- will come after your children. Is that what you want?"
Tanemori San considered her question. And understood in his heart that the circle of violence only begets more violence. Perhaps We, the People ought more deeply to consider this as we hurtle towards an ever more deadly, expensive, and growing nuclear arsenal.
Rev. Martin Luther King talked about "guided missiles and misguided men" and said that "a nation that, year after year, continues to spend more on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."
On this day, outside Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Norman Solomon tells that if we continue "to approach building nuclear weapons designed to inflict global nuclear holocaust we will get there."
We do not want to get there.
Barack Obama, can you hear us now?