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Pugwash members send letter to Obama hoping Hiroshima visit is no empty gesture

As U.S. President Barack Obama's historic visit to Hiroshima approaches, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs President Jayantha Dhanapala and three other members of the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize-winning anti-nuclear arms organization have submitted a letter to President Obama for publication in the Mainichi Newspapers.

    In it, the four Pugwash members -- Dhanapala, Secretary General Paolo Cotta-Ramusino, executive committee member Tatsujiro Suzuki, and Executive Director Sandra Ionno Butcher -- state that the U.S. president's visit "cannot be an empty gesture," and, "Every person whose finger is near the nuclear button should look into the eyes of a hibakusha (A-bomb survivor) and then work to 'let Nagasaki be the last.'"

    The full text of the letter follows:

    * * * * *

    Dear President Obama,

    It is impossible to visit Hiroshima or Nagasaki without contemplating the indiscriminate power of the world's most destructive weapons, to be aware of the continuing suffering of the hibakusha, and to wonder what further devastation might happen if such an explosion were to happen in today's modern cities and interconnected world. There is an urgent need for progress not only on non-proliferation and nuclear security, which your administration has actively promoted, but also on disarmament. Dialogue is the first step. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action proved it is possible to find agreement on the most challenging of issues. The world is a complicated place, but the desire for peace is stronger than that which pushes us apart. Disarmament requires that we sit at tables with others we may not yet trust to explore the threats our adversaries perceive. Today there is a desperate need to better understand the drivers of extremism especially in areas of nuclear risk.

    Your inspiring words in Prague renewed hopes around the world that we might see progress toward disarmament. Yet, sadly, despite warning in your student writing(i) that the "military-industrial interests" keep "adding to their billion dollar erector sets," you too are leaving plans for a re-vamped and upgraded trillion-dollar arsenal as your legacy. But this does not have to be your last chapter. You can still work for a peace that is, as you wrote, "genuine, lasting, and non-nuclear." You could use your last months in office to make progress on the nuclear disarmament agenda. For example, you could instruct your officials at the July NATO summit to explore options for removal of US nuclear weapons from Europe, laying groundwork for a doctrine of non-basing of nuclear weapons on foreign soil before other states with nuclear weapons decide to follow this dangerous US example. In your post-presidency period you could join other former world leaders in promoting disarmament. Your historic visit to Hiroshima carries great symbolism, but it cannot be an empty gesture. Every person whose finger is near a nuclear button should look into the eyes of a hibakusha and then work to "let Nagasaki be the last."(ii)

    Jayantha Dhanapala, President; Paolo Cotta-Ramusino, Secretary General; Tatsujiro Suzuki, Pugwash Executive Committee; Sandra Ionno Butcher, Executive Director

    Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs (1995 Nobel Peace Prize)




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