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Thursday, November 19, 2009

What is happening in "Peace City" Hiroshima - Report by Muneo Narusawa Part II

This is the continuation from Part I, posted on November 3.(Above photo - protesters against "Towada," leaving for the refuelling mission in the Indian Ocean. The banners read, "Do not allow SDF to participate in the War!" and "Do not kill Article 9!" Photo by Peace Link Kure)


Military Bases Surrounding the A-bomb Memorial City

It is customary for the Hiroshima-based Chugoku Newspaper to issue a special extra on the morning of August 6, which they distribute around the Peace Memorial Park and A-bomb Dome. The extra carries the full text of the "Peace Declaration" read by the Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba at the Memorial Ceremony. The title of the Chugoku Newspaper's Editorial on that day was "64 Years After Hiroshima - Japan (as
the country that suffered atomic bombs) Should Lead the World Abolition Efforts."

There was one thing that was missing from both this extra and editorial, despite their emphasis on nuclear abolition. There was no discussion of war itself. Nuclear weapons are tools of war, and of nothing else. Why do the Hiroshima media only discuss nuclear weapons, not the war itself?

On the early afternoon of August 6, I left the massive crowds of visitors around the Peace Park to take the ferry from the quiet Ujina Port. Soon after the ferry departed, I was made aware that Hiroshima is a place of war, the reality that the "Peace Declaration" never mentions. Between Ujina Port and Kure Port, which is not far from the A-bomb Hypocentre, is a heavily concentrated military zone where one quarter of Maritime SDF (Self Defense Force) warships are based.

Kure Port is MSDF's biggest submarine base, and also one of the major bases for overseas dispatching of SDF troops. Since 2001, the replenishment vessel "Towada" departed from Kure for seven times for the refuelling mission in the Indian Ocean to support the U.S. military in the Afghan and Iraq Wars. This Spring, "Sazanami" and "Samidare," two destroyers were dispatched to off the coast of Somalia from Kure. As I walked along the shore line of Kure, I saw Stars and Stripes flaunting.
It was the U.S. Army's Akizuki Ammunition Depot Headquarters. The Headquarters were instrumental in the Vietnam War, First Gulf War, the Afghan and Iraq Wars. In the area within the 30 km radius from the Hiroshima Hypocentre, there are U.S. Army's Kawakami Ammunition Depot (Higashi-Hiroshima City), Ground SDF's 13th Brigade, and Iwakuni Base, where the U.S. Marines and the Air Force unit of MSDF are stationed.

Why Hiroshima Avoids Discussion of "War" in Its Peace Messages

Hiroshima, the "International City of Peace," which calls for "abolition of nuclear weapons," is not just surrounded by these military bases with advanced "conventional" weapons, but troops have been dispatched overseas from its own backyard. "Hiroshima" never talks about these facts, let alone all the other wars going on in the rest of the world.

How can we make sense of this contradiction between the presence of these military bases and Hiroshima's messages for peace? To address this question, a civil organization "Peace Link Hiroshima/Kure/Iwakuni" started in 1989. Its mission statement says the organization will "strive to create a Hiroshima without military bases and a Hiroshima that is not involved with war." Hideki Nitta, one of the core members of the organization says,"Hiroshima was a military city during the war, and it continues to be so after the war. At the same time, Hiroshima embraces some kind of peaceful consciousness based on its experience of atomic bombing.... now that the anti-piracy law passed, which would enable SDF's full-scale overseas activities, and that the trade unions have been weakening, I believe that we citizens must stand up and seriously protest against the Government's militaristic moves."

The Hiroshima Mayor Akiba came up with the slogan "Obamajority," inspired by the U.S. President Obama's speech in Prague, in which he called for "a world without nuclear weapons." Obama, however, has never talked about "a world without war." Professor Toshiyuki Tanaka of Hiroshima Peace Institute argues that this "absence of war" from the discussion of peace is a symbolic problem with the Hiroshima peace
movements. "Certainly the victims of atomic bombing have gone through enormous suffering. However, by specializing the A-bomb experience too much, we missed the important perspective that atomic-bombing was one of the numerous indiscriminate bombings in modern wars. As a result, the A-bomb survivors have not been able to build solidarity with victims of other indiscriminate bombing, like those of Tokyo, and those of Afghanistan. While they talk of "peace," they have not been able to universalize their experience and to relate their experience to the ongoing wars and conflicts.

"Voices from Hiroshima," however, was of course a leader in the post-war peace movement, as Professor Tanaka admits. Haruko Moritaki, co-chair of Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (HANWA) points out, "The U.S. almost used nuclear weapons in a number of occasions including the Korean War and the Cuban Crisis. They chose not to after all, because they could not ignore the A-bomb survivors' voices." Ichiro Yuasa, Chair of Peace Depot says "The international anti-nuclear movements could not have survived without Hiroshima. The position of Hiroshima is extremely important in the world." Yuasa, also one the founding members of Peace Link adds, "For sure Hiroshima has this duality that it has acted as a symbol of peace movements and it has also provided bases for aggressive wars during and after the war. It is necessary, however, to keep exploring what Hiroshima can do and other places can't, and what concrete messages for peace and non-military solutions that Hiroshima can convey to the rest of the world, rather than focussing on those negative sides of the city."

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