The Legacy of Hiroshima


Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate – TRANSCEND Media Service

Presented at the 11th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, Nov 12, 2010, Hiroshima, Japan

Criminality and Delegitimation of Nuclear Weapons

Mina Sama,

We remember that 65 years ago Japan surrendered to the United States after 250,000 people were incinerated by U. S. nuclear weapons.  These   bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the carpet bombing of Tokyo, constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity.  These bombs were not dropped to bring an end to the Second World War, as American propaganda would have us believe. We remember they were developed as the Americans believed the Nazis might get nuclear weapons first.  These atomic bombs were used on the Japanese people to terrorize the rest of the world, and show the United States would indeed use them.

No American government has ever apologized to the Japanese people for these war crimes. It is said if people do not admit to the wrong they have done and say ‘sorry’ they are in danger of doing it again.

Tragically, I believe, the world is in danger of using nuclear weapons again, if we do not take seriously the message of the survivors  of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,  and move to abolish nuclear weapons, war, militarism and force as ways of solving our problems in international relations.   We can, and must, move from the threat and use of violence, from the myth of military security, to human and environmental security, based on Nonkilling, Nonviolence, Human Rights and International Laws.

No government has dropped nuclear weapons after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the threat to use them has been used often.  Many governments have built their national security  policies on threats of violence and militarism, and  since 1945 millions of people have been slaughtered in many countries by both  state and nonstate actors, in the name of progress and democracy.  Increasingly, governments are using force against unarmed civilians.   We think of Russia in Chechnya, China in Tibet, Burma, etc.  The list is endless.

Also too in their alleged fight against terrorism, the United States and their  NATO allies have produced real terror, often disregarding  international law, using torture and the most advanced  weapons such as Predator drones and air bombardments  against unknown targets, including civilians. The United States and their NATO allies have committed acts of aggression in Pakistan, invaded and occupied Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.  The US have authorized, armed, equipped and supplied Israel to continue its military occupation of Palestine, its collective punishment of the people of Gaza, and military bombardment of Lebanon. They have refused to insist that Israel, now the third largest nuclear power in the world, sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and begin nuclear disarmament.

At the same time the United States government is threatening to attack Iran (or allow Israel to do so) on the pretext that they have a nuclear weapons programme. And if indeed they do attack Iran, this would set the whole region on fire.  When President Obama says he wants to see a world without nuclear weapons and then says, in relation to Iran and their alleged nuclear weapon ambitions, that ‘all options are on the table,’ this is clearly a threat to use nuclear weapons, clearly a criminal threat under the World Court Advisory Opinion, against Iran.

The Nuremberg Charter of August 8th, l945 says that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is criminal, so officials in all nine nuclear weapons states who maintain and use nuclear deterrence as a threat, are breaking the law.

In his book ‘The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence – Could the U.S. War on Terrorism go Nuclear?’ (l),  international lawyer  Prof. Boyle, says,  ‘In the Advisory Opinion by the International Court of Justice on nuclear weapons, the World Court ruled that the threat stands or falls on the same legal grounds as the actual use.  If mass extermination of human beings is a crime, the threat to commit mass extermination is also a crime.’

If any of us threatened to kill another person we would be prosecuted; yet the leaders of nuclear weapons states are holding the threat of nuclear extermination over us all.  Some governments feel it is prestigious being in the Nuclear Weapons Club as if it were a badge of ‘honour’, when in reality it should be a badge of ‘shame’ and ‘dishonour’ for any country to have such weapons, breaking not only the Nuremburg principals, but also wasting their peoples’ precious resources so necessary for their basic needs of food, education, health care.

We must delegitimize nuclear weapons, change our militarized mindsets of fear and violence, and abolish force in international relations, replacing this with the alternative of human and environmental security based on peace, sustainable development, human rights and international laws.  Making arms and the use of force illegal and criminal, dismantling not only nuclear weapons but also the entire war machine, will give hope to the Human Family.


(l) ‘The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence.  Could the US War on Terrorism go Nuclear?’ published by Clarity Press, Inc.  Prof. Francis Boyle.


Mairead Maguire won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her actions to end the violence in her native Northern Ireland. In the last 10 years, she has travelled to Israel and Palestine promoting human rights and nonviolent resistance.

Maguire is a founding member of the Nobel Women’s Initiative and a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 22 Nov 2010.

Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: The Legacy of Hiroshima, is included. Thank you.

If you enjoyed this article, please donate to TMS to join the growing list of TMS Supporters.

Share this article:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.

Comments are closed.