A survivor of the August 9, 1945 bombing of the Japanese city of Nagasaki by the United States conveyed the inhumanity of atomic weapons on Monday ahead of an international meeting that seeks to eliminate the world’s growing nuclear arsenal.
“The atomic bomb is a weapon of inhumanity and of absolute evil, with which human beings cannot exist and which does not allow us to even live or die as human beings,” said Sueichi Kido, 82, after describing what happened when the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on his city just three days after it had already annihilated Hiroshima.
The U.S. remains the only country to have deployed a nuclear weapon against a civilian population during wartime.
Survivors’ pain and post-traumatic stress is “not something that fades away, but something which continues through their lives,” Kido, secretary-general of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-bomb Sufferers Organizations, said through an interpreter at the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.
The one-day conference, hosted by the Austrian government, precedes a three-day summit in Vienna—the first Meeting of States Parties to the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) since the United Nations pact came into force last January.
The world’s nine nuclear-armed states, including the U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members—Russia, the United States, China, France, and the United Kingdom—as well as Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea, have refused to support the TPNW and won’t take part in this week’s historic gathering.
Despite being the only nation to experience the catastrophic destruction wrought by a nuclear attack, Japan has also not signed the treaty. Furthermore, Kyodo News reported Monday that Tokyo officials have decided not to participate in this week’s summit, even as observers.
While the Japanese government will not be there, a large number of Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors are expected to attend.
Suzuka Nakamura, a 22-year-old university student whose grandmother was exposed to radioactive waste from the bomb in Nagasaki, also spoke at Monday’s conference as part of Japan’s delegation.
It is “up to us,” she said, “to remember the horror of the atomic bombings and to prevent repetition of the same mistakes in the future.”
Referring to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, Nakamura noted that “now people of Ukraine and the world are horrified by Russian President [Vladimir] Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons in the current war.”
Kido, for his part, said that “we have continued to appeal to the world for the abolition of nuclear weapons and for a world without war.”
“The treaty embodies this very aspiration,” he continued, adding that he hopes the upcoming meeting of signatories to the TPNW—which seeks to outlaw the development, possession, testing, and use of nuclear weapons—is successful.
Sofia Wolman, campaign manager of the Nuclear Ban Treaty Collaborative, explained in a recent statement that “countries that join the TPNW are legally obligated to provide victim assistance to affected communities.”
“For the U.S., ratification would mean finally acknowledging the people exposed to the first nuclear weapon ever used, and their descendants,” said Wolman, alluding to the thousands of victims of the Trinity Test conducted in New Mexico on July 16, 1945.
Tina Cordova, co-founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, described how that explosion “produced more heat than the sun, and caused radioactive ash to fall for days—covering and contaminating crops, homes, bodies, and water supplies.”
“We were innocent children, women, and men who were left to deal with the horrid consequences of being overexposed to radioactive fallout,” said Cordova. “Our families suffer from cancer, radiation-related illnesses, and early death.”
“The people of New Mexico have been waiting over 77 years,” Cordova continued. “We have never been acknowledged although we were the original downwinders, the first people to be exposed to a nuclear bomb and nuclear fallout anyplace in the world.”
“We have been casualties of the U.S. government’s quest for nuclear superiority,” she added. “There is so much more to the history than what the U.S. government has been willing to share, and we were the human sacrifice.”
Mary Dickson, another American downwinder who is attending this week’s events in Vienna, described herself in a recent Common Dreams essay as “a casualty of the Cold War, a survivor of nuclear weapons testing.”
“Growing up in Salt Lake City, Utah during the Cold War I was repeatedly exposed to dangerous levels of radioactive fallout from hundreds of detonations at the Nevada Test Site just 65 miles west of Las Vegas,” she wrote. “A government that knowingly harms its own citizens must be held accountable. Our lives are worth more than civilization-ending weapons. It’s a simple matter of priorities and justice.”