75 Years After WW2 The Battle Continues
If there is to be peace in the world, there must be peace between nations.
Whilst the cessation of war in the Pacific in 1945 brought many to tears of joy, its end came at a significant cost. The two atomic bombs dropped by the US on Japan killed between 129,000 and 226,000, most of whom were civilians.
Although this action contributed to the end of that war, it ignited a global arms race to develop even more devastating weapons. So today, we must fight a new battle for peace.
Today, nine nations have over 14,500 nuclear weapons—enough to annihilate our planet many times over.
At a time when we remember the end of World War 2, I had the opportunity to chat with local Canberran, Dr Sue Wareham OAM, a board member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, (ICANN) which won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.
But first, let us pause to remember the 75 to 85 million people who died in the Second World War and reflect on the events that led to the end of the conflict in the Pacific.
His Excellency Ambassador Mr Reiichiro Takahashi
“As the only nation to have suffered the horror of nuclear devastation in war, Japan has a mission of persistently working to bring about a world free of nuclear weapons.”
Marking 75 years since the bombing of Hiroshima Japan on 6 August 1945, His Excellency Ambassador Mr Reiichiro Takahashi — Japanese Ambassador to Australia, read a brief statement at a special ringing of the Canberra Rotary Peace Bell.
“75 years ago today a single weapon of mass destruction laid waste to the city of Hiroshima in an instant. Reducing it to ruins and claiming the lives of more than 100,000 of its citizens. Three days later, Nagasaki suffered the same fate. With immeasurable devastation for the city and its inhabitants.” …
World War 2 Was the Deadliest Conflict in History. How it Finally Ended Shocked the World.
70 to 85 million people perished in WW2; civilian deaths making up 50–55 million of those. It’s hard to put an exact number on it, as many died of malnutrition and disease. More than half of those killed were from the Republic of China (20-27 million) and the Soviet Union (15-20 Million). Australia lost 40,400 and our brothers in New Zealand lost 11,700.
Germany finally surrendered on May 8, 1945, ending five years of war in Europe. The Allies could then focus their full attention on the war in the Pacific and mount an attack on mainland Japan.
The attack began with a conventional bombing campaign that devastated 67 Japanese cities. Then, on July 25, 1945, orders were issued for atomic bombs to be used on the cities of Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata and Nagasaki.
The Allies called for the unconditional surrender of the Imperial Japanese armed forces on July 26, threatening “prompt and utter destruction”. Unfortunately, Japan ignored the ultimatum.
On August 6, the first nuclear weapon was used on Hiroshima and then on August 9, a second was dropped on Nagasaki.
Also on August 9, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and began an invasion of Manchukuo.
If the two atomic bombs weren’t enough, the Soviet entry into the war against Japan was a significant factor in the Japanese government’s decision to surrender unconditionally.
Japan capitulated on August 15, and they signed the surrender on September 2nd, 1945.
Dr Sue Wareham OAM is President of the Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia), a Member of the Board of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Member of the Board of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) Australia and Secretary of Australians for War Powers Reform.
Dr Sue Wareham OAM
“I think all governments need to spend more on diplomacy and overseas aid and spend less on armament.”
As a physician, Sue believes her work with the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW) is fundamental to her commitment to protecting human life and the improvement of human well-being.
“Prevention is everything. As a doctor we work to ease suffering and to heal, but preventing something is always, always better. That’s what we need to be doing.”
In 2007, Sue co-authored a report on the use of cluster munitions in Lebanon, for which she was awarded the Order of Australia Medal.
The same year, the Medical Association for Prevention of War launched ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons.
Chemical and biological weapons have long been outlawed by international treaty. In 2017, 122 nations united voted to put nuclear weapons in the same legal category by adopting the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. It was this Australian-founded international campaign that was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.
‘We need to get away from using the word non-proliferation in relation to nuclear weapons because that just means ‘maintaining the status quo’
Dr Wareham says we need to be talking about nuclear disarmament and that means getting rid of the 14,500 nuclear weapons that exist in the world. The best progress we have had towards that goal in recent years is the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. Which ICAN was instrumental in achieving. It was passed to the United Nations in 2017. It will come into force when 50 nations have signed. So far, it has about 80 signatures and 44 ratifications.
When that comes into force, it will mean that new killer weapons are firmly denounced as illegitimate and unlawful. Then every nation must get rid of them.
“We should encourage industry to make a better world, not a more frightening world. Society’s got a huge role to play in refusing to be drawn into negative rhetoric.”
Sue became interested when she was in her 20s.
“Nuclear disarmament was in the news and I saw a lot of images of Nagasaki after World War II. I was feeling the sense of what must’ve been like for those people.”
This type of warfare is indiscriminate. It kills everyone and everything in its path. Children, animals, vegetation. That was a strong motivator for me.
‘We think of nuclear weapons as being at the top of a pyramid of armed violence. The most destructive and in discriminant things that have ever been created. Down the bottom of the pyramid of the simplest of weapons.’
Around the world, there is so much armed violence and it is impossible to ignore that as well. One gets interested in the very notion of war itself. Looking at modern wars, it’s hard to find any which couldn’t have been prevented. And that’s an absolute total travesty. It’s a tragedy.
One looks at other types of weapons landmines. Is a big campaign around landmines; another in indiscriminate weapon. They can lie hidden underground for decades until some small child steps on it. One could go on and on, but basically we need to look at the whole notion of armed violence and its indiscriminate nature.
As a Rotarian, you could also consider joining the Rotarians Action Group for Peace
Climate change and peace are closely linked.
We know that in a world with a changing climate, environmental degradation. There are people already, and more in the future, on the move because of drought. Climate change is forcing people to move just as to survive. The movement of people has always a catalyst for conflict.
People have a powerful role to play in creating peaceful relationships in the community.
The Rotary Aussie Peace Walk is a terrific opportunity for people from all walks of life to come together for a common goal of peace.
To meet people from all walks of life and create new friendships.
“It is through developing wonderful friendships that we gain a greater understanding of each other.”
Particularly with people who feel marginalised; people who might be on the fringes of society. Or groups that have come here from elsewhere.
Making refugees and others feel welcome; working together and including people who may have a different view to you is a great way to develop strengths in a society.
It began with the World Peace Bell and now the message of peace is being spread to 100 schools around Australia as a Rotary Centenary initiative.'If there is to be peace in the world, there must be peace between nations.'On the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, in...
by Chris Edwards
Rotary Club of Hall
Chris joined the Rotary Club of Hall in 2010. He has held a variety of Board positions with the club including President in 2021-2022.
He is a family man who enjoys traveling and ‘the great outdoors'. He regularly starts his day with a walk or a jog. (He is also the youngest of the Sydney City2Surf Legends.)
Chris has been an Ambassador for Australian Rotary Health since 2016 and is the Event Director of the Rotary Aussie Peace Walk.
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