Japan’s Peace Movement Will “Never Give Up!”

September 30, 2015

by Madelyn Hoffman, Executive Director, New Jersey Peace Action

originally published by The Socialist

On the International Day of Peace 2015 (September 21), I spoke at the First Presbyterian Church of Rockaway, a New Jersey Peace Action recognized Peace Site, about being a local peacemaker and working to create a culture of peace. I welcomed the opportunity, having recently returned from a two-week trip to Japan, representing Peace Action and New Jersey Peace Action (NJPA) as a guest of the New Japan Women’s Association (Shinfujin). From August 1st through August 13th, I participated in an International Meeting for Peace, the 60th World Conference for A-Bomb and H-Bomb Survivors and ceremonies commemorating the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I gave my presentation just two days after the Upper House of the Japanese Diet passed extremely controversial and hotly contested “Security Rules” pushed by Prime Minister Abe and supported by President Obama. These rules violate Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, adopted post-World War II, by allowing Japanese soldiers to deploy overseas in support of their American allies, ending Japan’s 70 year commitment to pacifism. I read Article 9 out loud:

(1) Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
(2) To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.


I emphasized the words that I thought elected officials in the U.S. should hear, describing behaviors the U.S. seems to have abandoned years ago. I praised the Japanese commitment to these words and their ongoing desire to preserve their culture of peace, following Japan’s experiences in World War II as both an imperialist nation and the victim of two atomic bombs.

A Japanese woman activist who attended the program said afterward, “I was devastated when the Diet approved the new rules, but it wasn’t until I heard you, an American, read Article 9 to a multi-faith audience that my tears first began to flow.”

Why would my reading these words have such an effect? Could it be because the history of Japan-American relations since 1940 hasn’t been easy — beginning with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1944 and continuing with U.S. internment camps for Japanese, the U.S. firebombing of 67 Japanese cities and the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? The U.S. used the military base at Okinawa as a launch pad during the Vietnam War and today wants to expand that base, despite tremendous local opposition. President Obama pressured Prime Minister Abe to abandon a 70-year commitment to pacifism over tremendous objections in order to support the U.S. military agenda in the Asia Pacific and the Middle East. To hear an American read Article 9 with such reverence and respect and then talk about how the U.S. could learn from these words must be part of the reason it was so moving and meaningful.

While in Japan, I saw firsthand just how determined the majority of Japanese are to abolish nuclear weapons and put an end to war. At the end of every plenary session at the World Conference in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hundreds of people nearly ran onto the stage carrying colorful banners, some in English, others in Japanese and many in both languages, decrying nuclear weapons, calling for “Peace Not War” and protesting against efforts to undermine their constitution’s Article 9.

On August 30th, in the largest demonstration in decades, approximately 120,000 Japanese gathered at the Diet Building in Tokyo to protest the passage of these new rules. Organizers reported 200 protest rallies held throughout the country.


High school students are leading this effort. I heard several young Japanese people say that they don’t want to fight in an overseas war. They don’t understand why differences can’t be resolved peacefully. I found myself imagining what it would be like to live in a country where for more than three generations, no Japanese man or woman has been killed in a war and no Japanese man or woman has killed anyone in another country during a war. I wished that the same dilemma faced high school students in the U.S., but since the U.S. has been at war for 213 years of our 239-year existence, we have become numb to the prospect of yet another war.

On September 10th, in anticipation of the upcoming vote in the Diet, the Japanese NO WAR Network held a press conference to express its opposition to the “War Rules.” 103 Japanese organizations were joined by 228 foreign NGOs, including New Jersey Peace Action, in criticizing Prime Minister Abe’s proposed rule changes as both unconstitutional and against the interests of peace and security. Many statements implored Japan to remain a pacifist nation and a role model for other nations, instead of succumbing to pressure from the U.S. to become more militaristic.

Unfortunately, in the early morning of September 19th, the Upper House of the Japanese Diet voted to approve Prime Minister Abe’s new “Security Rules” while thousands of people protested outside. Inside, it was chaos, a result of intense differences of opinion about these new rules.

The majority of the population were disappointed but vowed to continue their fight. A newly formed student organization SEALDs is calling on all peace organizations to look ahead to next summer’s elections and work to replace anyone who voted for the rule changes with pro-Article 9 legislators.

I believe we can learn a lot from the Japanese. The leaders of the global anti-war movement and the movement to abolish nuclear weapons come from Japan. The Japanese have apologized for their own imperialism and many have vowed that Japan will never again be that imperialistic nation.

The Japanese have also suffered the worst of war – the tremendous devastation from the U.S. firebombing of 67 cities and the dropping of two atomic bombs. Many military experts determined that dropping the atomic bombs was not necessary to force the Japanese to surrender, since it appeared likely that the Emperor of Japan was ready to surrender, if only the U.S. would allow him to “save face.” However, the U.S. military wanted to show off its new prize, the atomic bomb, both to Russia and to the rest of the world. For the U.S., the loss of 210,000 lives was a small price to pay for the opportunity to “flex its muscle.”

Hibakusha, survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, have emotional, psychological and physical scars to prove the dangers of war and nuclear weapons. The average age of the Hibakusha is now over 80, making it more important than ever for youth to become involved, both in the effort to prevent war and to hear and learn the stories of those who survived the atomic bombs.

One such Hibakusha, Taniguchi Sumiteru, is 87-years-old. The bomb dropped on Nagasaki burned his back so badly that he spent the next 45 months lying on his stomach in a hospital bed. Years later when he met his surgeon, Taniguchi Sumiteru didn’t recognize him because he was never physically able to look him in the eyes. His surgeon said that he couldn’t believe Taniguchi Sumiteru survived so long. What moved me most of all was Taniguchi Sumiteru apologizing to the thousands gathered at the conferences in Hiroshima and Nagasaki for not doing enough to abolish nuclear weapons. Burned and mangled though he had been, he still expected more of himself.

He wasn’t the only Hibakusha to apologize and expect more from himself. I met another survivor, aged 81, who said he walks five miles every day and eats the most healthy food he can find because he owes it to his children to speak out for as long as possible against nuclear weapons and war.

The dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the most extreme and dangerous example of the logic of war. In order to wage war, one side has to demonize and dehumanize the other. Once that fatal step has been taken, the magnitude of destruction no longer becomes an issue. What does it matter whether the military uses a conventional weapon, a nuclear weapon or an atomic bomb?

The Japanese are also in the forefront of the movement against nuclear power, due to the catastrophic effects of the radiation leaks at Fukushima. Today, three years later, 100,000 evacuees are still unable to return to their homes in Fukushima, due to excessive levels of radiation.

It is my fervent hope that Abe’s “War Rules” won’t remain in effect for very long. Grass roots activism is spreading throughout Japan and is the best way to fight back against increased militarism.

We need to spend as much time thinking about creating a culture of peace as we do on waging war, in order to tame the military-industrial complex and change our nation’s and then the world’s spending priorities. We have to resist letting fear and greed dominate our thinking about resolving disputes between nations. It is tragic that the grassroots peace movement in the U.S. had to work so hard to protect a diplomatic agreement negotiated over 22 months between the P5+1 and Iran. The rhetoric of opponents and even many proponents of the deal showed how deeply the “culture of war” is engrained in the U.S.

The motto of the Japanese activists I met was “Never Give Up!” And those of us here in the U.S. who promote and value a culture of peace, won’t give up either.


About the Author:  has been the Executive Director of New Jersey Peace Action and the NJ Peace Action Education Fund since August 2000. Prior to being hired by NJPA, Madelyn was the Director of the Grass Roots Environmental Organization, Inc. of New Jersey from 1983 until 1998. She worked with over 200 citizens’ groups from every part of New Jersey around issues of toxic chemical pollution affecting their communities. Before holding that position, Madelyn was a community organizer for the Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark, working with senior citizens living in public housing projects and with residents concerned about toxic chemical pollution in the neighborhood.

After the Iran Nuclear Agreement: Will the Nuclear Powers Also Play by the Rules

September 29, 2015

Peace Action board member Larry Wittner on History News Network

By L

Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, What’s Going On at UAardvark?

Тягач МЗКТ-79221 (комплекс Тополь-М)” by ru:Участник:Goodvint – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

When all is said and done, what the recently-approved Iran nuclear agreement is all about is ensuring that Iran honors its commitment under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) not to develop nuclear weapons.

But the NPT—which was ratified in 1968 and which went into force in 1970—has two kinds of provisions. The first is that non-nuclear powers forswear developing a nuclear weapons capability. The second is that nuclear-armed nations divest themselves of their own nuclear weapons. Article VI of the treaty is quite explicit on this second point, stating: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

What has been the record of the nuclear powers when it comes to compliance with the NPT?

The good news is that there has been some compliance. Thanks to a variety of nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements negotiated among the major nuclear powers, plus some unilateral action, the world’s total nuclear weapons stockpile has been reduced by more than two- thirds.

On the other hand, 45 years after the NPT went into effect, nine nations continue to cling to about 16,000 nuclear weapons, thousands of which remain on hair-trigger alert. These nations not only include the United States and Russia (which together possess more than 90 percent of them), but Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. If their quarrels—of which there are many—ever get out of hand, there is nothing to prevent these nations from using their nuclear weapons to lay waste to the world on a scale unprecedented in human history.

Equally dangerous, from the standpoint of the future, is that these nations have recently abandoned negotiating incremental nuclear disarmament agreements and have plunged, instead, into programs of nuclear weapons “modernization.” In the United States, this modernization—which is projected to cost $1 trillion over the next 30 years—will include everything from ballistic missiles to bombers, warheads to naval vessels, cruise missiles to nuclear weapons factories. In Russia, the government is in the process of replacing all of its Soviet era nuclear weapons systems with new, upgraded versions. As for Britain, the government has committed itself to building a new nuclear-armed submarine fleet called Successor, thereby continuing the nation’s nuclear status into the second half of the twenty-first century. Meanwhile, as the Arms Control Association recently reported, China, India, and Pakistan “are all pursuing new ballistic missile, cruise missile, and sea-based delivery systems.”

Thus, despite the insistence of the nuclear powers that Iran comply with the NPT, it is pretty clear that these nuclear-armed countries do not consider themselves bound to comply with this landmark agreement, signed by 189 nations. Some of the nuclear powers, in fact, have been quite brazen in rejecting it. Israel, India, and Pakistan have long defied the NPT—first by refusing to sign it and, later, by going ahead and building their own nuclear weapons. North Korea, once a signatory to the treaty, has withdrawn from it.

In the aftermath of the Iranian government’s agreement to comply with the treaty, would it not be an appropriate time to demand that the nuclear-armed nations do so?

At the least, the nuclear nations should agree to halt nuclear weapons “modernization” and to begin negotiating the long-delayed treaty to scrap the 16,000 nuclear weapons remaining in their arsenals. Having arranged for strict verification procedures to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons, they should be familiar with procedures for verification of their own nuclear disarmament.

After all, isn’t sauce for the goose also sauce for the gander?

– See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/160658#sthash.r50T2a8Y.dpuf

Senate shenanigans on Iran accord continue, but Peace is greater than Fear!

September 15, 2015


Who knows why, but the Senate is again “debating” (I’d say speechifying) the Iran nuclear accord. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) scheduled another cloture vote for 6:00 today (with the vote being held open for several hours because of Rosh Hashanah)  less than a week after the last vote failed 58-42 (60 votes are needed to invoke cloture, end debate and move to a vote on a piece of legislation). Even worse, they may do it again on Thursday.

UPDATE, 6:45 Eastern time — Majority “Leader” McConnell a short while ago said if cloture failed again as expected, he will file an amendment (to what is TBD) stopping the president from lifting sanctions on Iran until it formally recognizes “Israel’s right to exist” (his words) and releases all US prisoners. Grandstanding? I guess we’ll see. 

This is a waste of time, as the House action was last Friday. The Iran nuclear agreement will go into effect once the Congressional review period expires in two days. Republicans want to:

a. embarrass the president and force him to veto their disapproval of the accord (not happening);

b. stage a show vote for the benefit of AIPAC, Netanyahu and the “pro-Israel lobby”;

c. avoid doing the peoples’ business (like, say, passing funding bills to keep the government functioning);

d. all of the above?

To me this isn’t even the real question. It’s what are the opponents of diplomacy afraid of? To hear their speeches, Iran is the worst threat to life on Earth ever, and even more, the most fiendishly clever country ever to engage in diplomatic negotiations. Somehow Iran was able to hornswoggle the US, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, China and Russia at the bargaining table to get an agreement that will let Iran run amok over the security concerns of everyone else in the region, more or less.


Time to reject fear, which is the only tool the opponents of the Iran peace accord have.

Diplomacy, and Peace, are greater than Fear.

Celebration in DC of Victory in the Senate on Iran Accord

September 10, 2015

Dupont Circle, Washington DC, vigil (which was a celebration since the Senate vote this afternoon to uphold the Iran peace agreement). Photos by Eric Swanson, Peace Action’s Database Manager (for nearly 20 years!)dupont circle rally km

Peace Action Applauds Senate Vote to Uphold Iran Peace Deal

September 10, 2015


September 10, 2015




Washington, DC—Peace Action, the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization, founded in 1957, hailed today’s Senate vote to uphold the Iran nuclear agreement negotiated by the U.S. and its allies with Iran.


“What a great day for those who support diplomacy as the best way to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons,” exclaimed Kevin Martin, Executive Director. “Peace Action chapters, affiliates, associates, members and supporters have worked for diplomacy and against war with Iran since 2004, and are very gratified to see our hard work pay off. May this be the start of a new era for U.S. policy in the Middle East.”


Martin noted there may well be further twists and turns as Senate and House opponents of the nuclear agreement resort to parliamentary and legal gymnastics to try to kill the accord.


“Diplomacy rejectionists are on the wrong side of not just of this issue, but of history. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPOA, as the Iran accord is formally known) will go forward and provide a strong foundation for enhanced security in the region, and hopefully a new relationship between the peoples of Iran and the United States.”



Update on Congress and Iran Accord: Sausage and legislation…

September 9, 2015


…are still the two things one doesn’t want to watch being made (well I’ve had some very good vegan sausages lately which one probably could watch being made but that’s beside the point). Opponents of the Iran nuclear peace accord are in a lather to try anything and everything to kill it, and they don’t have much time, what with other important congressional business staring them down, including another possible government shut-down at the end of the month. (Tempted to ask, all in favor say “Aye!”)

Long story short-ish: In the Senate, we have 42 senators (all Democrats) in favor of the Iran accord, which is better than we expected. This means the Iran deal will most likely survive. If both Houses actually vote to disapprove the deal, which is now somewhat in question as the next paragraph will explain, the 42 Senate supporters would uphold a presidential veto of the disapproval vote, and we expect we will have similar support of at least 1/3 of the House of Representatives (a 2/3 majority vote is needed to override a presidential veto).

The Senate plans to vote on the Iran accord tomorrow, 9/11, very cynical. There is some (un-) senatorial to-ing and fro-ing about procedure that is too arcane to bother with, so let’s just keep it simple. Please call your senators to make sure they know you support the agreement as negotiated with no funny business, no amendments. The Capitol Switchboard is at 202/ 224-3121. Calls only take a minute or two, ask to speak to your senators (this means two calls) and just let them know you support the Iran peace deal.

In the House, there is a revolt by members of the Liberty Caucus who claim, absurdly, at the 11th hour, that the vote cannot take place, and as a matter of fact that the congressional time period for acting (or not) on the agreement is in fact not over September 17th, as previously agreed all around, but that the 60 day clock has not even started since the Obama Administration did not transmit to Congress two “side agreements” between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that the White House doesn’t even have access to, as is customary in IAEA agreements with countries where it is inspecting nuclear facilities. Scratching your head? Don’t blame you.

This plan was hatched Tuesday night at a Republican conference meeting in the basement of a Tortilla Coast restaurant on Capitol Hill, overturning the Rules Committee’s agreement from that very afternoon on how to treat the vote. One is tempted to speculate it was after several pitchers of margaritas.

So now instead of the expected resolution to disapprove the agreement, it appears the House will vote Friday on the following three pieces of sausage, I mean legislation:

  • H. Res. 411—Finding that the President has not complied with section 2 of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (the bill that established the congressional review process and 60 day period). This is a non-binding resolution meant to set up a lawsuit against the president.
  • H.R. 3460—To suspend until January 21, 2017, the authority of the President to waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of sanctions pursuant to an agreement related to the nuclear program of Iran (this would effectively kill the deal, but if passed would be vetoed by the president and upheld if an override vote were held).
  • H.R. 3461—To approve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, signed at Vienna on July 14, 2015, relating to the nuclear program of Iran (this of course will fail since all Republicans at this point oppose the deal, and is meant to embarrass the president and the deal supporters).

Again, this is more than one could be expected to understand, even many of us who have done this kind of work for a long time. To simplify, just call your representative (same number as above) and tell her or him to ignore the tomfoolery and sausage slicing and dicing and support the diplomatic accord with Iran that is supported by most of the world.


Free State Peacemongers – Protest Sen. Cardin’s opposition to Iran Deal Monday!

September 4, 2015
MD peace proponents at Sen. Cardin's office two weeks ago, we'll have many more on Monday at the Labor Day parades!

MD peace proponents at Sen. Cardin’s office two weeks ago, we’ll have many more on Monday at the Labor Day parades!

Next week, Congress will take up the historic peace agreement with Iran, with votes expected in the House of Representatives and Senate by the end of the week. Our junior senator, Ben Cardin, has just announced that he will vote against the Iran accord.  In addition, he is planning to introduce legislation that will undercut the deal.  This is unacceptable, and we need to show Sen. Cardin that we are extremely disappointed in him—there is still time for him to change his mind.  Sen. Cardin is marching in two Labor Day parades on Monday. Please join us to tell him that we did not elect him to support Netanyahu’s right wing government over the interests of the U.S. and world peace!

WHAT: Members of Peace Action, Pax Christi, MoveOn, Code Pink, Progressive Maryland, Council for a Livable World, and other pro-peace organizations will vigil at two Labor Day parades (Kensington and Gaithersburg) where Sen. Ben Cardin will march.  We will urge Sen. Cardin and other undecided members of Congress from Maryland to support the nuclear agreement with Iran and to oppose any “poison pill” bills that will undercut the deal.  We will hold signs, chant, and distribute fliers.

WHEN:  Parades are Monday, Sept. 7 at 10 am in Kensington and 1 pm in Gaithersburg.

WHERE:  Meet up locations:

Kensington:  9:30 am at the Safeway Parking lot, 10541 Connecticut Avenue.

Gaithersburg:  12:30 pm at intersection of Odendhal and Russell (one of the corners of Lake Forest mall). U.S. Rep. John Delaney, undecided on the Iran deal as of today, will also be at this parade.

Bring your home-made signs supporting the Iran agreement! Bring a friend, or send and post this alert to your friends, family and social media networks.

BACKGROUND: Marylanders from across the state are mobilizing to encourage their Congressional representatives to support the nuclear deal with Iran. The agreement will restrict Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear bomb and will likely prevent another war. Despite the fact that there are now enough votes in the Senate to sustain a presidential veto of expected resolutions of disapproval, the struggle is not over, as other legislation that will undercut the Iran accord is expected to be introduced next week. We need to keep the pressure on and fight these bills.

We need your voice for peace! Please join us on Monday!

Also, please call Cardin’s office at 202/224-4524 to express your displeasure at his opposition to diplomacy!


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