Today is an important day. And not because, as some people are saying, the election campaign has finally become interesting.
Thanks to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons for reminding us of the day’s significance.
Dr Peter Karamoskos, a nuclear radiologist from Victoria, and founding member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, writes:
“Sixty-five years ago today, August 6, 1945 a nuclear weapon was detonated over Hiroshima, killing nearly half of the population. Three days later, another fell on Nagasaki, killing one in four who lived there. Since then, of course, many more have died from the effects of radiation.
The bombings also killed many health professionals, destroyed all hospitals and infrastructure, and made it impossible for medical services to function at a time when they were most needed.
There are currently 23,000 nuclear weapons in existence, many up to 1000 times the power of the 1945 bombs. Our civilisation has come close to nuclear conflict on two occasions and the potential still exists, however, now it includes the potential for nuclear terrorism by non-state actors.
Nuclear weapons are thus of direct concern to all health professionals.
The World Medical Association in 1998 called for the elimination of all nuclear weapons and encouraged all medical associations to support this goal. If prevention is better than cure, then actively campaigning against nuclear weapons should be on every health worker’s agenda.
To that end, in 2007 the Medical Association for the Prevention of War initiated the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) as a project under the auspices of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
There are signs the tide is turning. In a Lowy Institute poll in October 2009, 75 per cent of Australians agreed that global nuclear disarmament should be a top priority for the Australian government. US President Obama has spoken of a world without nuclear weapons. In March, the German parliament called for the withdrawal of remaining US nuclear weapons in Germany. The long-standing official unquestioning acceptance in Japan of “protection” by US nuclear weapons is starting to unravel. New Zealand has long since refused to rely on weapons of mass destruction for its defence. For the first time, this year’s Non-Proliferation Treaty conference canvassed the prospect of a nuclear weapons convention. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon confirmed on Tuesday with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada that Japan and the world body will aim for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
But it is ordinary citizens around the world who would be the victims of a nuclear conflict who can best campaign against nuclear weapons, question the absurdity of their possession and the amorality of their use and, ultimately, drive their abolition.
Today, ICAN is launching the ‘Million Pleas’ campaign to generate the world’s largest video chain letter featuring ordinary people pleading with our leaders to abolish nuclear weapons. It is supported by ambassadors such as Nobel Peace laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Jody Williams, and Australian former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser.
The first pleas come from Japanese children at the Hiroshima Peace Park together with one of the survivors of the original nuclear attack. Join them at www.millionpleas.com.”