Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a speech given by the author at the Gensuikyo National Conference in Shizuoka, Japan, February 28, 2017.
“‘In the land of Propaganda’… a man, any man [or woman], any little man who goes on thinking with his own head, imperils public order. Tons of printed paper repeat the government slogans; thousands of loud-speakers, hundreds of thousands of manifestoes and leaflets, legions of orators in the squares and at the crossroads, thousands of priests from the pulpit repeat this slogans ad nauseam, to the point of collective stupefaction. But it is enough for one little man to say ‘No!’ murmur ‘No!’ in his neighbor’s ear, or write ‘No!’ on the wall at night, and public order is endangered.”—Ignazio Silone, Bread and Wine, 1937.
Friends, it has long been my privilege to work with courageous men and women resisting dictatorships, authoritarian regimes and military colonialism and who work for a nuclear weapons-free world. After our election, influenced by the FBI director, the Kremlin and Hillary Clinton’s uninspiring campaign, millions of Americans understood our need to resist a fascist, white supremacist, lying, militarist, misogynist, corrupt, ignorant, Crusader Christian regime of billionaires, generals and their apologists.
Our struggle centers on three contending forces. First is the illegitimate neo-fascist and militarist Trump regime. Second is the “national security” establishment that confirmed Russian hacking of Clinton’s and Democratic Party computers, leaked reports about Trump’s Russian-aligned first national security adviser and warned that other Trump campaign officials spoke secretly with Russian officials during the election campaign.
Last are the popular democratic forces: millions who joined the Women’s Marches in 400 cities and towns; who are creating sanctuaries to protect millions of undocumented immigrants who Trump has begun to deport; activists, attorneys and judges who blocked Trump’s initial unconstitutional executive order banning refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority nations. We are the media that understand that lies and subversion of truth lead to totalitarianism. And we are the people and members of Congress who are demanding an investigation of “Russiagate” and calling for Trump’s impeachment
We are defending the Constitution, democracy, our neighbors and ourselves, and to prevent international catastrophes. Steve Bannon told us his goal is “the birth of a new political order.” Their goal is to create a police enforced white supremacist, corporate-feudal order with staggering and painful income inequality.
We have had a new crisis or scandal almost every day: Trump’s lies about fraudulent voters being responsible for Clinton’s 3 million popular vote victory; the racist and unconstitutional immigrant and refugee ban; immigrants being rounded up and deported on a mass basis. There have been daily attacks on the press and Trump regime lies — they call them “alternative facts” — to create the foundation for totalitarian rule. We’ve had Trump’s assaults against judges and the rule of law; the threat to invade Mexico; red line threats against Iran and North Korea; and the undermining of the One China policy. Neo-Nazi, Muslim-hating Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller serve as senior presidential advisers. And there is more: deregulation and assault on the environment; eliminating regulations designed to prevent another Great Recession; Trump’s reaffirmation of the military pivot to Asia, and now his call for the biggest military buildup in US history.
Prices are already being paid for these policies: There is intense fear among immigrants who face deportation — even the boxer Muhammad Ali’s American son was detained at an airport. Mosques have been burned; Muslims, immigrants and people of color are vulnerable; dozens of bomb threats have been made against Jewish institutions; international students, professors and technical experts staying away. And spineless Republican complicity is undermining our democratic culture and institutions. Europeans are disassociating themselves and moving to create an independent military superpower.
When it comes to nuclear weapons, it’s amateur hour at the White House. Many questioned if Trump can be trusted with the nuclear codes — not that anyone should be. Several months ago, Trump didn’t know what the nuclear triad was and suggested that Japan and South Korea should have nuclear weapons. He asked briefers why we can’t use nuclear weapons, threatened to use them against “terrorists,” and said “I can’t take anything off the table.”
He has since called for a nuclear arms race and launched a Nuclear Policy Review to ensure that the US nuclear arsenal is “at the top of the pack.” In his first conversation with Vladimir Putin, before rejecting extension of the New START treaty, Trump had to ask his advisers what it is.
Worse, in addition to the trillion dollars being spent for a new generation of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems, the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board is pressing for increased production and deployment of so-called low-yield nuclear weapons (two-thirds the size of the Hiroshima A-bomb) to increase the possibility of fighting “limited nuclear wars.” Right-wing think tanks want development of a first-strike arsenal and resumption of nuclear weapons testing. And there are calls for more US nuclear forces to be deployed to Europe.
We also face the danger that red lines drawn against China and Iran and North Korea could be real. Remember that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson testified that, “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that … the island-building stops and … access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.” China responded that such action would mean war. Trump’s also warned that North Korean development of an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the US “won’t happen,” whatever that implies.
Yet in crisis lies opportunity. Calls for Trump’s impeachment have emerged in the mainstream media. Millions turned out for January’s Women’s Marches; immigrants staged a general strike, and on International Women’s Day, we’ll have the Day Without Women strike. About 800,000 will join the Scientists’ March, with the People’s Climate March a week later. Local governments, religious congregations and universities and other places are vowing to protect innocent refugees from being deported. More than 100,000 people challenged members of Congress during Resistance Recess last week.
Peace and disarmament activists are active in all of these acts of resistance. Among our initiatives is a legislative challenge to Trump having the only finger on the US nuclear button. Our challenge is to help our movement brothers and sisters understand the links between these struggles and the imperative of abolishing nuclear weapons.
We also have the UN negotiations for the Ban and Prohibition Treaty, won by civil society and the non-nuclear weapons states to overcome the nuclear powers refusal to fulfill their Article VI Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) nuclear disarmament obligation. Most nuclear powers will boycott these negotiations, but ban diplomacy will add pressure for full implementation of the NPT. Tarja Cronberg of the International Peace Bureau and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reminds us that the ban process is a step toward implementation of the NPT, adding momentum to abolition diplomacy. Civil society and the majority of the non-nuclear weapons states are now setting the terms for the international debate.
Yet, we are in a race against time, spurred by increased nuclear dangers, Hibakusha testimonies, their warning that human beings and nuclear weapons cannot coexist, and by their burning desire to eliminate the nuclear threat to humanity’s existence while their hearts still beat.
Governments alone will not abolish nuclear weapons. This requires the unremitting pressure of broad and willful people’s power. Among our means is the Hibakusha international signature campaign. If broadly supported, it can demonstrate international popular will for complete nuclear disarmament, while also containing those in Tokyo who dream of Japan becoming a nuclear armed nation.
In the US, our struggle is threefold: to build the movement that defends democracy, human and civil rights; to prevent nuclear and other wars; and to build the political power needed to win the beginning of negotiations for a nuclear disarmament convention.
Popular and international pressure are having their impacts. Secretary of War James Mattis and others say that they will honor the nuclear deal with Iran. Trump responded to Pyongyang’s recent provocative missile test with “surprising restraint,” and the fears voiced about Trump’s finger being on the nuclear button have led him to speak about the horrors of a nuclear holocaust.
We are also building for the ban treaty negotiations. We will use speaking tours, vigils, the April US and Global Days of Action on Military Spending, and other means to mobilize for the June negotiations. In addition to meeting with delegations and buttonholing diplomats, a women’s march and other public demonstrations are being planned. And, in one way or another, the Hibakusha petition signatures will be a focal points of our actions.
Friends, history teaches that out of movements that have overcome autocracies, ended wars, and acknowledged their crimes against humanity, have come robust and powerful democratic cultures and profound commitments to peace. This is our hope and goal.