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Messages from U.S.-based peace activists on Obama's Hiroshima visit

With the approach of U.S. President Barack Obama's historic visit to Hiroshima, former Hiroshima International University professor Tomoko Nakamura, who specialized in documents relating to nuclear arms, has collected emailed letters about the visit from U.S.-based peace activists. The following are the texts of those letters.

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    Dot Walsh, recently a member of the Peace Abbey organization:

    I firmly believe that President Obama should include in his trip to Japan a visit to the Museum and also a visit to the Peace Cathedral that holds the memorial stone honoring "Unknown Civilians Killed in War" that was pulled from Nagasaki to Hiroshima in 2005. If we are to end the stockpiling of nuclear weapons and acknowledge the tragedy and suffering of the victims of nuclear war, being in Hiroshima is the right place to begin the transformation. President Obama has a responsibility to model for the people of the United States and the world the conscientious actions of a leader. There is no better time than this to go forward with courage and conscience.

    I have asked many friends and they all have a similar attitude. They have more respect for President Obama for choosing to visit Hiroshima.

    Dot Walsh

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    Raymond G. Wilson, emeritus associate professor of physics at Illinois Wesleyan University and author of "Nuclear War: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and a Workable Moral Strategy for Achieving and Preserving World Peace":

    It is my opinion that the majority of Americans are in favor of Obama's visit to Hiroshima; it is not unanimous. I have been in favor of it for at least 30 years. However, I don't expect any great changes as a result of his visit. I would also favor a visit from ALL "sitting" Congress people; they do too much sitting anyway.

    Ray Wilson

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    David K. Shipler, winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction:

    I am very moved and proud that President Obama will visit Hiroshima. Even without an apology, the gesture is a dramatic statement of opposition to the use of nuclear weapons in an increasingly dangerous world, where proliferation and the acquisition of weapons by non-state actors are a real danger. I visited Hiroshima several years ago and was deeply affected by the drawings by survivors of their searing memories. I wish that every national leader in the world would make this pilgrimage to drive home the horrors of nuclear weapons.

    David K. Shipler

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    Donald Lathrop, professor emeritus of philosophy at Berkshire Community College, and U.S. representative of the Never Again Campaign against nuclear weapons:

    With regard to President Obama going to Hiroshima, we couldn't be happier.

    It is long overdue. We wish he had time to go to Nagasaki, as well.

    We're sure he has seen pictures and no doubt films about the devastation. We hope he gets to talk with some actual hibakusha.

    We have stayed overnight with six different hibakusha, in six different cities and had visits at our home from four hibakusha. This is a vitally important way for him to enhance his understanding of the lasting effects of the bombing on countless individuals.

    We hope he gets to see the Aogiri tree right near the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Museum. It has survived the bombing and risen from its ashes.

    Some day he may get to see "The AOGIRI --Phoenix Tree", an original Japanese film, based on the true life story of Ms. Susuko Numata, a hibakusha who lost her leg due to our bombing. Though she was repeatedly forced into the depths of despair, she eventually made up her mind to live on as an atomic bomb storyteller for peace. In addition to telling a great many others, she told her story to countless children under the Aogiri tree (Chinese parasol tree)

    This tree is famous and its seeds have been spread around the world, just as the messages of the hibakusha must be.

    As President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for his concerns about nuclear weapons, we know this is an issue of importance to him. However, we cannot understand, with that in his background, why he approved expenditure of a trillion dollars over the next thirty years to update our nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. This is appalling, particularly as much effort therein is going toward the production of smaller nuclear weapons which would make their use all the more likely.

    We just received a Spring 2016 newsletter from Physicians for Social Responsibility and their research shows that between 2012 and 2014, the top 13 nuclear weapons contractors received $334 billion in government contracts. At the same time, they spent $243 million on lobbying, and another $44 million on campaign contributions.

    This is just what President Eisenhower warned us about in his final speech -- the undue influence on government by the military/industrial complex. We hope this reality is part of the questioning process of President Obama.

    We believe President Obama is a good man and we fervently hope this visit will make a difference in the way he sees his need to help rid the world of nuclear weapons.

    Donald Lathrop

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    David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation:

    At the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, we have encouraged President Obama to travel to Hiroshima, and we are pleased that he will do so. Our advice to the President is as follows:

    "Take three gifts to the world on your journey: your courage, your humanity, and a proposal to end the insanity."

    We have been saddened by the reports that the president may not make time to meet with hibakusha while in Hiroshima, but rather will meet with US and Japanese military personnel.

    We are hopeful that his speech in Hiroshima will draw the world's attention to the extreme dangers that continue to be posed by nuclear weapons and the need to abolish them with a sense of urgency.

    David Krieger

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    Nancy Meyer, freelance journalist and member of the September 11th Families' Association:

    Having been to Hiroshima myself, met with two hibakusha, studied the history, and talked to many people who have worked tirelessly to promote the end of nuclear weapons, I am convinced that there is no good reason for such weapons to exist. We humans have far too many ways to hurt each other already. Let us put our energies instead toward improving the world, instead of maintaining the ability to destroy any part of it.

    Specifically, I hope that President Obama's visit will inspire him to act in the following ways:

    *Removing the U.S. nuclear arsenal from high-alert status, and encouraging all other nuclear-armed nations to do the same;

    *Initiating negotiations for global nuclear disarmament as required by Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT);

    *Announcing further nuclear reductions with Russia, as use of even a fraction of the current arsenals could cause nuclear winter, resulting in severe climate change leading to global famine;

    *Canceling the $1 trillion, 30-year plan to completely overhaul the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.

    Nuclear weaponry is not good for anyone, clearly not for the nation it is used on, but not even the nation that creates and then must maintain such costly and dangerous armaments. Any continued commitment to such instruments of destruction by anyone is not justified. As a citizen of the US, I am not proud of my nation's history in developing and deploying these arms. It appalls me that more than 60 years after the devastation caused by dropping atomic bombs on two beautiful Japanese cities, any leader of any nation would wish to do anything but abolish these horrific weapons as soon as possible.

    Many people today continue to say the 1945 atomic bombings in Japan were justified because they ended the war. So let us finally fulfill the promise of peace of those horrific acts by abolishing them from the face of the earth. That is the only rightful legacy the tens of thousands of Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims can have. But it is the very least we owe to them, and to current and future generations of humanity.

    Nancy Meyer

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