May 2, 2005 in Nation/World

Rally urges U.N. to eliminate nuclear arms

Karen Matthews Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Demonstrators form a human peace sign in New York’s Central Park on Sunday.
(Full-size photo)

NEW YORK – Thousands of activists marched past the United Nations on Sunday, urging diplomats reviewing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to remember the horrors of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki six decades ago and not allow them to be repeated.

Chanting “No War, No Nukes” and carrying signs saying “No More Hiroshima, No more Nagasaki,” the marchers then headed to Central Park, where they formed a human peace symbol. Organizers put the number of protesters at 40,000.

The mayor of Hiroshima, Tadatoshi Akiba, told the crowd that the survivors of the bombs were “the only people who have had the experience of nuclear war.”

“For them the world is a family, and we need to work together so that no member of this family will have to suffer the pain that they suffered in 1945,” he said.

One of those survivors, Sunao Tsuboi, was a 20-year-old college student when the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Speaking through an interpreter, he spoke of the physical and mental anguish he has experienced, saying he has suffered from prostate and colon cancer, among other ailments.

“After so many years I have survived, but I have many, many illnesses,” he said. “That’s why we call the atomic bomb the absolute evil.”

A monthlong review of the nonproliferation treaty begins today at the UN – a process that is done every five years. The treaty calls for nations without nuclear weapons to pledge not to pursue them, and the five that acknowledge having nuclear weapons – the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China – to pledge to move toward eliminating them.

But there are concerns about the treaty’s effectiveness, and contentious issues have sprung up even before the review, from North Korea’s withdrawal from the treaty to the threat of nuclear terrorism.

Organizers of the rally said their aims were to hasten negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons and to have nations agree to a nuclear “no first use” policy as the weapons are being phased out.

Longtime disarmament advocate Dr. Helen Caldicott said Russia and the United States are the real “rogue nations” and have enough weapons to destroy humankind.

“Let’s for God’s sake talk about the real moral issues of our time,” she said. “Not stem cell research, gay marriage or abortion. Let’s talk about whether or not the whole of the world survives, life on the planet survives.”

However, some protesters didn’t limit their concerns to nuclear weapons.

Bob Schumacher, a Vietnam War veteran from Montrose, Pa., said the public was being fed lies now about U.S. military involvement in Iraq just like it was during the Vietnam era.

“I made a promise to people I knew who died there that I wouldn’t stand by and let another war happen and not speak out,” he said.

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