Joseph Siracusa: ‘In One Terrible Moment, 60% of Hiroshima Was Destroyed’

Statues in front of the Catholic Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki after nuclear attack.

Frida Berrigan wrote a moving article a few years ago on the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Here’s an excerpt from her longer essay:

In Hiroshima, Little Boy’s huge fireball and explosion killed 70,000 to 80,000 people instantly. Another 70,000 were seriously injured. As Joseph Siracusa, author of Nuclear Weapons: A Very Short Introduction, writes: “In one terrible moment, 60% of Hiroshima… was destroyed. The blast temperature was estimated to reach over a million degrees Celsius, which ignited the surrounding air, forming a fireball some 840 feet in diameter.”

Three days later, Fat Man exploded 1,840 feet above Nagasaki, with the force of 22,000 tons of TNT. According to “Hiroshima and Nagasaki Remembered,” a web resource on the bombings developed for young people and educators, 286,000 people lived in Nagasaki before the bomb was dropped; 74,000 of them were killed instantly and another 75,000 were seriously injured.

In addition to those who died immediately, or soon after the bombings, tens of thousands more would succumb to radiation sickness and other radiation-induced maladies in the months, and then years, that followed.

In an article written while he was teaching math at Tufts University in 1983, Tadatoshi Akiba calculated that, by 1950, another 200,000 people had died as a result of the Hiroshima bomb, and 140,000 more were dead in Nagasaki. Dr. Akiba was later elected mayor of Hiroshima and became an outspoken proponent of nuclear disarmament.–Frida Berrigan, Tom Dispatches 2009

Y-12 Nuclear Facility Goes on Lockdown After Catholic Nun Breaches Security

Officials at the Y-12 nuclear facility show off “state-of-the-art security technology” (NNSA, 2010)

Joe Newman, director of communciations for the Project On Government Oversight, follows up on the most recent Plowshares action of religious civil disobedience held at the Oakridge nuclear facility in Tennessee. The Y-12 facility “enriched” the uranium used in the nuclear attack by the U.S. on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. (Read more about the Transform Now Plowshares.)

As officials at the Y-12 nuclear weapons facility sort through their recent security breakdown, they’ve decided it might be best to move all of their nuclear materials, including highly-enriched uranium, into their on-site vaults.

The Knoxville News Sentinel’s Frank Munger reported that the “security stand-down” is expected to last into next week. The federal contractor that runs the Oakridge, Tenn., facility made the decision with the support of the National Nuclear Security Administration. Munger writes:

According to the federal NNSA, “This is being done to address additional security training and execution deficiencies identified by the contractor after Saturday’s incident. However, all nuclear materials at Y-12 are in safe, secure storage and we remain entirely confident in the security of Y-12’s facilities.”

Sr. Megan Rice
The Saturday “incident” involved three peace activists, including an 82-year-old nun, Sr. Megan Rice, who cut through three fences surrounding the facility, posted a banner on one of the buildings and poured human blood on the premises, according to the News Sentinel’s orginal story about the break in.The activists were arrested under federal trespassing charges and are expected to appear in court Thursday.

The Project On Government Oversight’s Peter Stockton, an expert in nuclear security, told Munger that the security breach could be a sign of a much bigger problem.

“The DOE’s unprecedented response to last weekend’s break-in, alarming as that incident initially appeared, suggests that it has revealed even more drastic flaws in the security at the Y-12 facility,” Stockton said via email. “At this point we can only guess what those flaws might be.”

The LORD will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.–Isaiah 2:4

Can We Close the Door on the Nuclear Age?

“At 11:02 am, two-thirds of Japan’s Catholics were annihilated; … more Japanese Christians were slaughtered than had been martyred in four centuries of brutal persecution.” – The Holy City Nagasaki

Lest We Forget …

That 67 years ago, on August 6th and 9th, there were 150,000 people, mostly non-combatants, killed instantaneously by 2 nuclear weapons which were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Additional thousands died of radiation poisoning in subsequent years.

That today the U.S. has 6,800 nuclear warheads with indescribable power of destruction.

That today’s nuclear bombs could end human life on planet Earth.

That today’s nuclear weapons have no rational use but could be used by ideologues, or the insane.

That today’s nuclear power industry is intimately linked with the nuclear weapons industry.

That today it is a fact that $1 TRILLION will be spent globally on nukes in the next decade.

That today, politicians are cutting budgets for health care, education, renewable energies, and other social needs programs but not for nukes.

So, today, we can do something about it for our families and future generations.

We can sign a petition with Global Zero to call on world leaders to cut nukes, not the things we desperately need.

Please consider signing the petition at www.cutnukes.globalzero.org.

Plowshares Action: ‘Transform Now’ at Oak Ridge Nuclear Facility

Oak Ridge, TN—Early on Saturday morning, July 28, three Catholic plowshares activists performed a disarmament action in response to U.S. government plans to invest $80 billion to sustain and modernize the nuclear weapons complex, which should in fact be phased out.

Calling themselves Transform Now Plowshares, Michael R. Walli (63) left, Sr. Megan Rice (82), and Greg Boertje-Obed (57) right, entered the Y-12 nuclear weapons facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, as a prophetic Christian witness to prioritize people over bombs.

They released a faith-based statement citing Isaiah 2 and saying, “A loving and compassionate Creator invites us to take the urgent and decisive steps to transform the U.S. empire, and this facility, into life-giving alternatives which resolve real problems of poverty and environmental degradation for all.”

They also delivered an indictment citing U.S. Constitutional and Treaty Law as well as the Nuremberg Principles: “The ongoing building and maintenance of Oak Ridge Y-12 constitute war crimes that can and should be investigated and prosecuted by judicial authorities at all levels. We are required by International Law to denounce and resist known crimes.” This action is one of a long tradition of Plowshares disarmament actions in the US and around the world which challenge war-making and weapons of mass destruction.

At Y-12, the National Nuclear Security Administration plans to replace facilities for production and dismantlement of enriched uranium components with a new consolidated Uranium Processing Facility (UPF). It is budgeted to cost more than $6.5 billion.

Read the bios and full statements of Michael, Sr. Megan, and Greg here.

Catholic Bishops: ‘Just Say No To Nukes’

Among recent examples of Catholic bishops acting very poorly indeed, here’s an example of bishops acting “good.” They joined representatives of various groups advocating nuclear arms reduction to present a petition with over 50,000 signatures to the White House.

On May 7, Stephen Colecchi, USCCB’s director of International Justice and Peace, representing the US bishops delivered the petition in a meeting with Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications and speechwriting. Leaders of arms control groups, including the Arms Control Association, the Council for a Livable World and Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, also participated in the meeting.

In response to the petition, Rhodes said: “The White House appreciates the engagement of citizens across our country who support efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace and security of a world without them. This type of grassroots activism is critical to build awareness around the dangers of nuclear weapons, and to support common sense arms control policies.”

In a March 2 letter to National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, outlined some moral considerations to take into account during the study:

The current review of nuclear weapons policy by the Administration presents a once-in-a-decade opportunity to make significant strides towards a safer, more secure future for our nation and world. For decades, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Holy See have supported nuclear nonproliferation and verifiable efforts to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons.

As you advise the President, I urge you to recommend further reductions in U.S. nuclear forces. The horribly destructive capacity of nuclear arms makes them disproportionate and indiscriminate weapons that profoundly endanger human life.

At a time of fiscal restraints, tens of billions of dollars currently allocated to maintaining Cold War-based nuclear force structures could be redirected to other critical needs, especially to programs that serve poor and vulnerable people at home and abroad. As the Second Vatican Council taught, “[T]he arms race is an utterly treacherous trap for humanity, and one which ensnares the poor to an intolerable degree.”

Continue reading “Catholic Bishops: ‘Just Say No To Nukes’”

Laments for Japan

Today is the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. The fragile blossoms are at their peak. Backlit by dawn, the flowers burst into flame. Tonight they will drop with the snow flurries. The festival is more subdued this year in keeping with the natural disasters and nuclear devastation through which Japan (and the world) are suffering.

The cover of the March 28, 2011 issue of The New Yorker is adorned by a “Dark Spring” in Japan. But before the artwork went to print, artist Christoph Niemann said  he was suffering a creative dilemma. “I realized that there is no way a drawing that depicts the devastation, can come close to the heart-wrenching and bizarre photos I’ve seen everywhere,” Niemann reflected.

He blended his admiration for Japanese ink drawings, and came up with with the cover concept above. “The quiet beauty of plum blossoms mixed with the radiation symbol would make an eery and appropriate metaphor for the threat of a nuclear catastrophe.”

I decided to read a few of the elder Japanese poets in commemoration of the day. Here are a few tender lines from Matsuo Basho (1644-1694):

A village without bells–
how do they live?
spring dusk.

*

Early fall–
the sea and the rice fields
all one green.

*

The spring we don’t see–
on the back of a hand mirror
a plum tree in flower.

*

Not this human sadness,
cuckoo,
but your solitary cry.

*

More than ever I want to see
in these blossoms at dawn
the god’s face.

(Translations by Robert Hass)

Remembering Sr. Rosemary Lynch: Apostle of Peace

It’s with sadness that we mark the death of Sr. Rosemary Lynch, early founder of peace witnesses at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. And it is with deep gratitude that we recall this woman who was a shining light of faithful leadership and nonviolence in modern American history.  She was also co-founder of Pace e Bene, a Catholic peace organization promoting nonviolence.

Rosemary died in Las Vegas on Sunday at age 93 after being hit by a car while out walking. Her legacy will be carried on by the many lives that she touched in her rich and vibrant life. The Las Vegas Sun notes:

Born in Phoenix, Lynch became a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity community in 1932. After taking her vows in 1934, she went on to teach at a Catholic school in Los Angeles followed by a stint as principal at a high school in Montana. From there, she went to Rome as a representative for her congregation. Her 15 years in Rome included the Second Vatican Council.

Pace e Bene’s Ken Butigan expanded on Rosemary’s history:

After returning to the United States in 1977, Lynch settled in Las Vegas where she joined the staff of the Franciscan Center.  That summer, President Jimmy Carter announced that he was seeking funding from Congress to develop the “enhanced radiation” or “neutron” bomb.  Soon afterward, news was leaked that the neutron bomb had already been developed and tested at the Nevada Test Site.  Lynch decided to do some research on this program and the test site in general.  In the course of her exploration, she discovered that a group of Quakers, including Larry Scott and Albert Bigelow, had held the last demonstration at the test site on August 6, 1957.

Spurred by this, she and a group of friends in Las Vegas organized an event at the gates of NTS to mark the 20th anniversary of this activity, to protest the impending production of the enhanced radiation weapon developed there, and to remember the bombing of Hiroshima thirty-two years earlier.  They dubbed themselves “Citizens Concerned about the Neutron Bomb.”  As it was later reported:

Nineteen people met at the main gate of the NTS before dawn to hold a prayer vigil and conduct a teach in about Hiroshima.  The vigilers held signs along the road that led into the Test Site and they were very careful to make signs that supported the workers but objected to testing.  One sign read: “NTS Workers Yes, Nuclear Bombs No.”  The vigil was highlighted by the visit of Japanese Hibakusha [survivors of the atomic bombings] who wanted to present a book of drawing of the bombs dropped on Japan to the Test Site officials.  The vigilers went directly to the guard house at Mercury Station.  The Japanese approached the gate house but the guards refused to accept their book.  An older Japanese lady, a Hibakusha, extended her hand to the guard and he refused to shake her hand.  The small group began a chant, “Take her hand.  Take her hand.”  Finally the guard gave in and shook her hand. (Michael Affleck, The History and Strategy of the Campaign to End Nuclear Weapons Testing at the Nevada Test Site, 1977-1990 (Las Vegas, NV: Pace e Bene, 1991).

Rosemary was part of the first “Lenten Desert Experience” at the Nevada Test Site in 1982 to protest ongoing nuclear testing and violence. The movement later became known as the Nevada Desert Experience, which still exists today.

It was during those protests that Ediger said Lynch’s character was exposed: She protested issues involving the test site — not the people on the other side of the debate, he said. In fact, Ediger said, through her social activism, Lynch developed “very warm human relationships” with the people in support of the test site.

Rosemary was an apostle of peace. “Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon her.”

Vanessa Ortiz: ‘Everything I Learned About Activism, I Learned from Mom’

Vanessa Ortiz

I came across a fun blog piece titled Everything I learned about activism, I learned from Mom by Vanessa Ortiz. It’s a great testament to the true historical roots of Mother’s Day.

My own Mom took me to United Farm Workers protests in Sacramento in the 1970s, peace demonstrations at the local SAC base and nuclear abolition protests in the 1980s, and showed me what it means to stand up – and show up – for justice. (Thanks, Mom!)

Mothers don’t realize that their daily shows of bravery and seemingly small courageous actions grow another generation of female activists!  Yes, we sometimes take the lessons of cooking and cleaning, or studying and reading, or raising great kids, but often we watch with awe as our mothers take on the world. My mother raised five children, she worked as a social worker and a teacher, she kept an immaculate house, she was a community organizer, she was an educator, and she was politically and locally in touch. Today, I can’t even claim half of those achievements.Everything I Learned about Activism, I Learned from Mom | Peace X Peace, May 2010

Peace X Peace, where’s Ortiz’s post was published, is a global network of women with women-focused e-media, fresh analysis, and from-the-frontlines perspectives. We engage, connect, and amplify women’s voices as the most direct and powerful ways to create cultures of peace around the world. I wrote a short piece on the organization for Sojourners magazine back in November 2004 (see Women Building Peace).

Tsutomu Yamaguchi: ‘Only Breast-Feeding Mothers Should Be Allowed to Control Countries That Have Nuclear Weapons’

Tsutomu Yamaguchi
Tsutomu Yamaguchi

As weird as it may seem, there were actually 165 people who got blasted twice when the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August, 1945.

A new book by Charles Pellegrino, The Last Train from Hiroshima, tells their remarkable stories. (Dwight Garner gives an excellent review of Pelligrino’s book in the Jan. 19 New York Times)

One of those survivors, Tsutomu Yamaguchi died just a few weeks ago. His obituary and his recollection of his experiences should be read as modern “texts of terror” and studied along side the Prophet Isaiah.

One of Yamaguchi’s conclusions in his long work against nuclear weapons was that the only people who should be allowed to govern countries with nuclear weapons are mothers who are still breast-feeding their babies. An excerpt from his obit is below:

Tsutomu Yamaguchi, the only official survivor of both atomic blasts to hit Japan in World War II, died Monday in Nagasaki, Japan. He was 93. The cause was stomach cancer, his family said.

Mr. Yamaguchi, as a 29-year-old engineer for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, was in Hiroshima on a business trip when the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945. He was getting off a streetcar when the so-called Little Boy device detonated above the city.

Mr. Yamaguchi said he was less than two miles away from ground zero that day. His eardrums were ruptured, and his upper torso was burned by the blast, which destroyed most of the city’s buildings and killed 80,000 people.

Mr. Yamaguchi spent the night in a Hiroshima bomb shelter and returned to Nagasaki, his hometown, the following day, according to interviews he gave over the years. The second bomb, known as Fat Man, was dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, killing 70,000 people.

Mr. Yamaguchi was in his Nagasaki office, telling his boss about the Hiroshima blast, when “suddenly the same white light filled the room,” he said in an interview last March with the British newspaper The Independent.

“I thought the mushroom cloud had followed me from Hiroshima,” he said.

Read Yamaguchi’s whole obituary here. Also read Yamaguchi’s first-person account How I survived Hiroshima–and then Nagasaki by David McNeill.

Elderly Raid Nuke Site (God, It’s Hell Getting Old.)

Mark Rahner at the Seattle Times produced a great satirical video interview with 81-year-old Jesuit priest Bill Bichsel after Bichsel and four others (Susan Crane, 65; Lynne Greenwald, 60; Steve Kelly, S.J., 60; Anne Montgomery RSCJ, 83) , using bolt and wire cutters, broke into Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor to protest its storehouse of nuclear weapons. It’s not quite up to the standards of Stephen Colbert – but worth the watch!

Bichsel and the others were caught and faced charges of misdemeanor trespass and destruction of government property. They were scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 6 in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. The government has since asked that the charges be dismissed. Prosecutors and investigators say they need more time to determine whether felony charges are more appropriate, said Emily Langlie, the spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle. Once that decision is made, then it’s likely charges will be refiled, she said.
disarmnow_plowshares09Nov
Susan Crane, one of the Disarm Now activist, said “Bix was disappointed that everything he said about international law, about love of enemy, and the reasons for our action was left out. But, we did get a laugh from the video!”

The Disarm Now Plowshares activists will continue to vigil at the gate of Naval Base Kitsap, and invite everyone to join them at the Martin Luther King celebration at the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, in Poulsbo, Washington, on Saturday, January 16, 2010. Find out more at www.gzcenter.org (That’s Ground Zero Center, not Geezer Central.)