Prescott Peacebuilders will be holding a remembrance of the first and to date only use of nuclear weapons against a human population. August 6 marks the 78th anniversary of the bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima and, three days later, the city of Nagasaki. Recalling Winston Churchill’s admonition that “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” the group will present “Confronting Nuclear Madness through the Decades,” in which members of Peacebuilders will portray activist Helen Caldicott, scientist Leo Szilard, singer-songwriter Joan Baez and others who have spoken out about the dangers of nuclear weapons.
With the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the reality of the Cold-War nuclear threat has resurfaced. In September 2022 Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to use nuclear weapons, saying, “In the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and to defend Russia and our people, we will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us. This is not a bluff.”
Statements such as Putin’s have moved the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to set the hands of the Doomsday clock to 90 seconds to midnight. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was founded in 1945 by Albert Einstein and University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan project. To describe the threat to all life forms, they created the image of the Doomsday clock. “[U]sing the imagery of apocalypse (midnight)and the contemporary idiom of a nuclear explosion (countdown to zero), the Doomsday clock has been used to convey threats to humanity and the planet.”
Every year the hands on the Doomsday Clock have been moved forward and back to reflect the year’s events and the likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons.
Additionally worrisome, Russia has brought its war to both the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plants. According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, this violates international protocols and risks a nuclear accident that could rival the direct use of nuclear weapons.
Prior to the recent G7 Summit a letter was sent to President Biden from two dozen arms-control advocates, including several former senior US arms-control officials. It urged President Biden to use the G7 Summit in Hiroshima as an opportunity to give a speech acknowledging the horrors of nuclear war and the need to advance the goal of nuclear disarmament.
Unfortunately the G7 took place during the US budget crisis. With the Republicans threatening to shut down the government, President Biden returned to Washington early. Although the hoped-for speech was not given, at a press conference in Hiroshima during the Summit President Biden did acknowledge the nuclear threat, saying, “Being in this city and visiting the memorial on Friday was a powerful reminder of the devastating reality of nuclear war and our shared responsibility to never cease our efforts to build for peace. And together with the leaders of the G7, we have reiterated our commitment to continuing to work toward a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons.”
Prescott Peacebuilders is committed to continuing the work for a nuclear-weapons-free world. As our mission states, we hope “to inspire our community to believe in — and work toward — a more peaceful, livable world.” We invite like-minded people to join us in this life-affirming work for the future of our children and our children’s children. See you on August 6 at the Prescott downtown library.