Thursday, September 23, 2010

Reflections of Fidel Castro: The Nuclear Winter and Peace

Havana, September 22, 2010

Reflections of Fidel: The nuclear winter and peace

(Taken from CubaDebate)

MORE than 20,000 nuclear weapons are in the hands of eight countries: the United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, China, Israel, India and Pakistan, some with profound economic, political and religious differences. The new START treaty, signed in Prague this April by the largest nuclear powers, is nothing more than an illusion in relation to the problem that is threatening humanity.

The nuclear winter theory, developed and brought to its current stage by the eminent researcher and professor Dr. Alan Robock from Rutgers University, New Jersey (a modest scientist who prefers to recognize the merits of his colleagues rather than his own), has demonstrated its veracity.

For them, the only way to prevent the use of nuclear weapons is by eliminating them. Living in a privileged place on the planet, which allows them to enjoy the highest standards of living and the world’s riches despite the incredible waste of non-renewable resources, the American people should be the ones most interested in the information provided by scientists. But how space does the mass media devote to that task?

According to Robock, the nuclear winter theory has shown us that, "if such weapons did not exist, they could not be utilized. And at this time, there is no rational argument to use them at all. If they cannot be used, they must be destroyed and thus we would be protecting ourselves from accidents, errors of calculation or any demented attitude."

"…computers that operated with ultramodern models were converted into the sole laboratory of choice, and historical events – including cities razed by fire in the wake of earthquakes and bombardments in times of war, the columns of smoke of forest fires, and clouds created by volcanic eruptions – became the yardstick for scientific evaluations."

The proliferation of nuclear weapons at a time when Israel, India and Pakistan have joined the nuclear club, and other countries, it would seem, are aspiring for membership, have obliged Robock and his colleagues to review their initial research projects. The results of these updated studies, published in recent articles, are astonishing.

In relation to the United States and Russia, even though both countries committed themselves in Prague in April 2010 to reduce their operative nuclear arsenals to some 2,000 weapons, the only way of preventing a global climate disaster would be to eliminate nuclear weapons.

"…any country that is currently considering the nuclear option needs to recognize that, by adopting such a decision, it would be endangering not only its own population but those of the entire world. It is time for the world to once again reflect upon the dangers of nuclear weapons, and this time adopt the road to peace and eliminate the possibility of a global climate disaster induced by nuclear energy, for the first time since the middle of last century."

"... the use of nuclear weapons in the event of a total attack on an enemy would be a suicidal action due to the anomalous cold and darkness provoked by smoke from the fires generated by the bomb. In fact, it has been evidenced that the more nuclear weapons a country possesses, the less safe it is."

Albert Einstein said: "The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything except for our ways of thinking and we are thus drifting toward an unparalleled disaster." Carl Sagan said that our nuclear arms policy was "a path where no man thought."
At the end of his master lecture I asked Professor Alan Robock, "How many people in the world are aware of that information?" He replied, "Very few." I added, "In your country, how many?" "The same," he answered, "they don’t know."

I did not doubt that that was the sad reality, and added: "We are not doing anything when just you and me know it, what is needed is that the world knows it. Perhaps the psychologists have to be brought in to explain why the masses do not understand."

"I have an answer," exclaimed the scientist: it’s called denial. It is something so horrible that people don’t want to think about it. It's easier to pretend that it doesn’t exist."

His words, during his nearly one-hour lecture, aided by charts, figures and photos projected on a screen, were clear, precise and eloquent. For that reason, I said: "What is raising consciousness, which we talk so much about? What is creating culture? And how discouraging it must be for you scientists that people don’t even hear about what you are doing; how many hours you invest in it."

I noted that, when there was no radio, television or Internet, it would have been impossible to broadcast a lecture like that one in Cuba or in the world. Far less when many people were unable to read or write.

We promised the professor that we would spread the information he had given us about the nuclear winter theory – an issue that we only know a little about based on our concern over the possible outbreak of a global nuclear war, which gave rise to our duty to attend his lecture – in a language that even eight-year old Cuban children can understand.

No other era in human history is related in any way to this one. Certainly, if these risks are not understood by those who make decisions from the heights of the immense power that science and technology has placed in their hands, the next world war will be the last one, and it would take, perhaps, tens of millions of years before new intelligent beings could attempt to write their history.

As chance would have it, yesterday, September 20, I received news that the Peace Boat cruise liner was due to reach the Port of Havana at dawn on September 21, after being delayed by cyclones on its voyage from the Canary Islands for several hours. The Peace Boat is a non-governmental organization with special consultative status at the United Nations.

Since 1983, it has been organizing cruises around the world to promote peace, human rights, fair and sustainable development and respect for the environment. In 2009 the organization was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for its global campaign to prevent war.

In a letter written to me by Yoshioka Tatsuya, director of the Peace Boat, and sent via Nao Inoue, head of the group of visitors, Tatsuya states: "Our organization has been working for years, recently in cooperation with the ALBA countries […] which have clearly expressed their commitment to nuclear abolition, the prohibition of foreign military bases and the peaceful resolution of international controversies […] Japan, as you know, the only country to have suffered an atomic bombardment, maintains to this day a pacifist Constitution which, by virtue of its Article 9, formally renounces war and prohibits the use of force in international disputes…

"An issue of special interest in our activism is the removal of foreign military bases: a situation present in Japan and diverse parts of the world, taking into consideration that foreign bases such as those existing in Guantánamo and Okinawa are causing irreversible environmental damage and fomenting war instead of world peace.

Including this voyage, the Peace Boat has organized 70 trips around the world, beginning in 1983, with the participation of no less than 40,000 people, who have visited more than 100 countries. Their slogan is "Learn from past wars to build a future of peace."

Over 20 years, the Peace Boat has visited our country 14 times, overcoming obstacles and hurdles imposed by the United States. It has been promoting campaigns to raise significant donations, fundamentally to the health and education sectors.

Its members have a presence in numerous international forums and solidarity with Cuba encounters. They are truly proven friends of our country. In May 2009, in response to a proposal by the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), the organization was decorated with the Order of Solidarity granted by the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba.

It was a great honor for me to receive an invitation to meet with a group of the visitors, which I proposed they hold with the maximum number of people, at Havana’s International Convention Center. Mr. Nao Inoue and Ms. Junko Watanabe both addressed participants.

Junko Watanabe is a survivor of the first atomic bomb launched on the city of Hiroshima, when she was just two years old. She was with her little brother in the yard of a house located 18 kilometers from the point where the bomb was dropped; an event that totally destroyed the major part of the city disappear, instantly killed more than 100,000 people and inflicted serious harm on the rest of the inhabitants.

Junko Watanabe recounted her dramatic memories, when years later, she came to know the images and details of that act, which caused so much suffering for so many innocent people who had nothing to do with that brutal attack. It was a deliberate act to terrorize the world with the unnecessary use of a weapon of mass extermination, when the Japanese empire was already defeated.

The bomb was dropped, not on a military installation, but on a defenseless civilian target. The circulated footage of that horrific crime does not express what the voice of Junko Watanabe told us about the events. It was an opportune occasion to express our points of view and tell our friendly Japanese visitors, fighters for the abolition of nuclear weapons, military bases and war, about the efforts being undertaken by our country to avert a nuclear conflict that could put an end to the existence of our species.

Fidel Castro Ruz
September 21, 2010
7:12 p.m.

September 22, 2010

The truth is being hijacked

Affirms Fidel during a meeting with members of the Japanese Peace Cruise that arrived in Cuba on September 21 from the Canary Islands

Leticia Martínez Hernández

EVERYBODY in the hall was shaken, including Fidel. They were the words of Junko Watanabe, who was barely two years old on that tragic August 6, 1945. She was playing with her brother in the yard of their home when her mother’s agonized cries interrupted their absorption in the game to warn them that something horrific was happening. Junko does not remember anything about that lugubrious day, but has reconstructed every second of the act that tore her apart like the burns that blinded thousands of Japanese there in Hiroshima, the city which was destroyed when Junko had barely begun to take her first steps.

This woman, wise and sad, traveled together with more than 600 Japanese aboard the Peace Boat, convened to “Learn from past wars to build a future of peace.” In my judgment, this slogan has a special value, Fidel said some minutes before listening with consternation to Junko’s testimony. "I would dare say without any doubt that never in human history has there been a moment as dangerous as this one. This is not about an excursion, this is about a struggle that is real and serious. I hope that these exchanges will enlighten us as to what is being thought, what formulas could be possible, as to realistic solutions, not just a simple expression of a desire. For me the meeting has great importance precisely because of the experience that you have accumulated on this subject,” Fidel told them precisely on September 21, World Day of Peace.

Junko spoke of that experience in Fidel’s meeting with the members of the Peace Boat, the cruise liner that has docked in Cuban ports on various occasions since 1990. She told a heartrending story which, at times, made her voice shake, made her weep. Junko said that it was lovely weather in Hiroshima that August morning, but "a black and sticky rain began to fall on us." Her parents told her that, afterward, she began to suffer from the attacks of diarrhea which threatened her short life. "I could eat, but not digest the food. My parents thought that I would die.”

Perhaps it was the memories of this hibakusha (atomic bomb survivor) which prompted the Comandante to recall his visit to Hiroshima, "I was in the Museum. They explained everything to me there, what survived, what didn’t. One of the most horrific images was of the unborn children of pregnant mothers with some months left…The real fact is that today humanity is threatened with things as horrific as you have told us, or even worse.”

For that reason Fidel gave so much attention to the meeting," I was glad to received the invitation to dialogue with you, given the importance of the moment at which we are living, which is not just any moment, but also out of a sense of gratitude, as I know of your solidarity, the difficulties, the struggle against blockades during these years, the boat’s identity, the ports where you could go and where you couldn’t go, whether they allowed you to refuel or not.” He then recalled that August day when he heard the news of the attack. "I was a student. It was summer there in Santiago de Cuba…Nobody had the faintest idea of the existence of a weapon of that nature.”

He then told Junko that he had found many documents of older survivors who had relived a past of terror through their stories. Junko recalled the images of a documentary by Japanese journalists in which “the scenes are brutal, the city is disappearing, turning black, where the people are mindlessly walking the streets, full of dismembered bodies.”

Then the Comandante, with his usual sensitivity, apologized for the questions that he wanted to ask her. He told her that the meeting was to be broadcast on national television, if she had no objections. “We are very interested in public opinion being aware of all this, not just transmitting it here, but in other countries. What happened there is extremely important, independently of what has been published.” Fidel wanted to know how long it took for the dust produced by the bomb to reach the people. Junko searched in her memory. She answered, around 30 minutes. "Were your parents in the house? Did your mother suffer burns?” he inquired. Junko explained that her family lived 18 kilometers from where the bomb exploded, and what they received was a wave of dust, that her mother and other little brother were outside of the house, that her father was in a building in the city from where he saw the airplane which sent Hiroshima into mourning.

After the questions, Fidel informed the members of the Peace Boat, on its fourteenth visit to Cuba, of the recent visit by Alan Robock, the highly regarded researcher from Rutgers University, who gave a lecture on the nuclear winter theory, based on the danger signified by a regional nuclear war. "He starts out from current facts, very different from that moment when the first nuclear war was launched. He takes into account the current situation, with the existence of 25,000 nuclear weapons. He says that 100 nuclear explosions would suffice to produce what he describes as a nuclear winter. For example, a war between India and Pakistan with the number of weapons in each ones possession, would be sufficient to put an end to life on the planet.”

The Comandante said that he would give them a copy of the conference because it contains information of great value. He recalled the fact that “the power of existing weapons is 45,000 times greater than that of either of the two bombs dropped on Japan.” Then it occurred to him that Robock, “a generous, splendid man,” could give a lecture on the dimensions of the danger to the members of the Japanese organization. He explained that a nuclear explosion would result in clouds of dust extending throughout the world in less than three weeks, that temperatures would fall to freezing point, thus implying the disappearance of all food production.

Fidel went on to comment on the worldwide ignorance of the issue despite the volume of prestigious research, and on the term “state of denial,” referred to by Robock in the context of people rejecting the idea of thinking about horrific things. That explanation, Fidel noted could be extended by other aspects related to the media. “There is information about things that are happening in the world, but despite all the existing media, there are no explanations. The truth has been hijacked, it is not known. Of course, if the masses cannot read or write, they cannot even attempt to find out.” He spoke of the case of Cuba, of its Revolution, “which has not been defended with force, but has been defended with knowledge, with awareness,” despite 50 years of blockade.

Later on, with the same insistence, Fidel asked what has been said about the environment, about climate change. “There’s no need to wait for a nuclear war for life to disappear on the planet.” He recalled that the development of countries is based on non-renewable energy sources like oil. “One hundred million barrels extracted every day! Humans are wasting oil that nature has accumulated in 400 million years… they have wasted half of that fuel in 130 years.” And he spoke of another problem that nations have to approach: “The population cannot grow in an unlimited way. A population of approximately 9-10 billion inhabitants is being calculated for the year 2050.” Fidel affirmed his opinion that people have to enjoy life and what is happening is that approximately 8-10 million children are dying every year as a consequence of hunger or a lack of medication.

The leader of the Revolution was then informed of the Cuban doctor invited aboard the Peace Boat. He is Iván Toledo Rosa, who was saving lives in Haiti, and then of the dancer José Ramón Mendiola Osorio, a kind of Cuban cultural ambassador on the Japanese cruise liner. Fidel thanked them both, after commenting on the internationalist vocation of Cuban doctors, who have extended a hand of solidarity in many countries of the world. “It is a test of conscience. What our compañeros did in Haiti is a product of conscience, the conscience that made the Revolution possible… in spite of the criticisms made of us and the errors that we could have committed because no human work is perfect.”

Fidel recalled that this is an important moment because the United Nations is discussing its millennium goals: “The United Nations is the only one that, supposedly, we have – because on occasions it would seem that it doesn’t exist – given that problems of development, goals in education, goals in health are actually discussed there, and every time that there is a crisis, a setback occurs.” He spoke about the purchasing power of U.S. citizens, which has been reduced by 43.6%, about the consequences of underemployment, about the 80% of engineers in the United States working in the military industry.

“It is a great democracy, to such an extent that it has 12,000 lobbyists in Congress, which costs $3.5 billion per year. Result: all the big transnationals have control over the U.S. Congress, which is the institution that has to ratify agreements; if there is a disarmament agreement or an agreement on the reduction of nuclear weapons, it is Congress that has to approve them. Now the role of a president in the United States is an unknown one. He cannot do anything, and this is the man who has a nuclear briefcase.”

Referring to those sad days of August 1945, Fidel concluded that “it was not necessary to utilize that bomb. The imperial forces of Japan were already defeated, there was no need to drop those bombs to win that war. It was an act of cruelty, an experiment,” he stated.

And in the face of the possibility of another tragedy he brought up the discord over Iran: “If they attack Iran in order to destroyer its nuclear reactors the war will become nuclear.” From there, he once again insisted on the need to pay greater attention to the subject, to cooperate, to be aware of the dangers. It was then that many people understood Fidel’s message when, minutes earlier, he asked Nao Inoue, leader of the Peace Boat delegation, “Could you tell me the speed of the Peace Boat?” to which Nao replied smiling, “More or less that of a fast bicycle.” And Fidel, said outright: “I think that in these times the Peace Boat should travel faster.”

The Peace Boat sailed for the first time in 1983. Since then, the Japanese non-governmental organization has made 70 voyages around the world bearing its message of peace. According to its director, Nao Inoue, more than 40,000 Japanese have taken part in these voyages under the slogan: “Learn from past wars to build a better future.” During the meeting with the leader of the Revolution, Nao Inoue said that the Japanese pacifists are against the U.S. blockade of Cuba and also advocate the liberation of the five Cuban heroes. “We want to extend a bridge between Japan and Cuba, between Latin American and Asian countries,” he commented. And in that endeavor they are going to sea again to visit Nicaragua.

Translated by Granma International

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