By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan
President Joe Biden is attending this year’s G7 summit, with Russia’s war in Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons there at the top of the agenda. The G7 comprises Japan, Italy, Canada, France, the US, the UK, and Germany. Russia was briefly a member of what was then called the G8, but was expelled in 2014 after its military annexation of Crimea.
This year’s G7 meeting is being held in Japan. Of particular note is where in Japan: Hiroshima. There, on August 6th, 1945, the United States dropped the world’s first atomic bomb, leveling the city and killing an estimated 140,000 people and injuring 100,000 more. As the threat of nuclear war looms as a real possibility, the world leaders gathered in Hiroshima have a responsibility, to reflect on the obliteration of that city almost 80 years ago, and to say no to nuclear war.
“I want them, the G7 leaders, to seriously acknowledge the inhumanity of nuclear weapons,” 85-year-old Teruko Yahata, a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, said this week. “These are weapons that can destroy humankind. I want them to strongly feel that these are terrible things and that they have to be abolished.” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s family is from Hiroshima, and a number of his relatives perished in the atomic blast.
Survivors of the Hiroshima bomb and the one dropped on Nagasaki three days later, on August 9th, 1945, are referred to in Japanese as “hibakusha.” They have been joined in their call for nuclear abolition by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. ICAN is demanding that the G7 leaders condemn any and all threats to use nuclear weapons, recognize the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear war, remove nuclear weapons from non-nuclear states (demanded also of Russia, which plans to place nuclear arms in Belarus) and to join the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The United States and Russia, along with the seven other nuclear-armed states (China, the UK, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel), refuse to sign the treaty.
A group of military and national security professionals just published a full-page open letter to President Biden in the New York Times, under the headline, “The U.S. Should Be a Force for Peace In the World.” Its fifteen signatories include a retired U.S. Army Major General, Pres. Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to the Soviet Union, and Dennis Fritz, a retired command chief master sergeant of the U.S. Air Force. He is the director of the Eisenhower Media Network, which organized the letter.
“I’ve been in and out of the Pentagon since the age of 22. I am now 66 years old. This is probably the most fearful I’ve ever been with a nuclear escalation,” Chief Fritz said on the Democracy Now! news hour. “I take their threat of not taking off their plate the use of nuclear weapons — I take that seriously. That is why, once again, we thought it was so important for us to send that open letter out to the president. Our hope is to educate the American public so that they could see how we got to this point.”
Another former national security advisor and military veteran is sounding alarm bells as well. Daniel Ellsberg, the legendary whistleblower who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971, revealing the secret history of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war and the lies of presidential administrations, from Presidents Eisenhower through Johnson, that supported the U.S. military escalation there.
Earlier in his career, Ellsberg was deeply involved in developing the U.S. military’s plans for nuclear war. His book, “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner” should be required reading. One of his greatest concerns was the dominant belief among war planners at the time that the U.S. would fare better in a nuclear war by initiating a “first strike.”
“The belief that we can do less bad by striking first than if we strike second is what confronts us in Ukraine with a real possibility of a nuclear war coming out of this conflict,” Dan Ellsberg said recently on Democracy Now! “In other words, most life on Earth — not all, most life on Earth — being extinguished as a matter of the control of Crimea or the Donbas or Taiwan. That’s insane.”
Dan Ellsberg, now 92 years old, was recently diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer. He remains tireless in warning the public of the risk of nuclear annihilation. In March, he wrote, “All the young activists rising up give me hope as I leave my life. As the movement against the Vietnam War showed, young people can save lives when they make their care known in action. Keep going. The world is in your hands.”