Remembering Nagasaki

Richard Jackson

We are here to remember the countless lives lost in one of the worst acts of political violence of the past century. We remember the 80,000 people who died from their injuries in Nagasaki in the first two months following the bomb. We also remember the unknown but much greater number who later died from radiation poisoning and radiation-induced cancers.

But the nuclear bombs exploded on Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not end the devastation caused by nuclear weapons. Therefore, we remember that eight countries have exploded more than 2,000 nuclear weapons in the air, land and sea since 1945. And we remember that tens of thousands of military personnel have been injured and harmed by their expose to radiation and the effects of the test explosions, including personnel from New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, the United states, the Soviet Union, Pakistan and elsewhere. Many of them continue to suffer the effects today. We also remember all the ordinary people, as well as the environments, harmed by nuclear testing in the South Pacific, including Fiji and the Marshall islands, the United States, Australia, Central Asia, Pakistan, and elsewhere.

However, it’s important that we don’t restrict our memory to the harm done by these inhuman – and indeed, anti-human – weapons. We need to also remember all those who have struggled over the years against nuclear weapons, including those who have been beaten, arrested, imprisoned and even killed for their peaceful protests – such as Fernando Pereira who was killed on the Rainbow Warrior. We remember the Faslane Peace Camp, the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, the Ploughshares activists, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the New Zealand anti-nuclear movement, and countless other courageous groups and individuals struggling against nuclear weapons. These brave souls have succeeded in banning nuclear ships from New Zealand, and in having the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty adopted recently, among others.

In conclusion, we are here to remember the Nagasaki bombing because the threat of nuclear weapons is not a historical event from the distant past, but because it is a continuing threat that hangs over us all. We remember Nagasaki because the threat of nuclear war is alive and looming ever closer on the Korean peninsula; because it is an ever-present threat in the conflicts between Israel and its neighbours, and between India and Pakistan, and between Russia and its neighbours. We remember Nagasaki because the world’s nuclear states are currently pouring trillions of dollars into renewing and modernising their nuclear arsenals.

In the end, the point of remembering goes beyond acknowledging and honouring the victims of nuclear weapons; the point of remembering is to renew our courage and determination – and to recommit ourselves to the crucial struggle to rid the world of these inhuman weapons. Our remembrance means very little if we don’t go from this place with a renewed determination and a renewed commitment to advancing the moral struggle against nuclear weapons.

  • This is the text of a speech delivered at the Nagasaki Peace Commemoration on 9 August 2017.