Thousands mark Hiroshima’s 60th anniversary

HIROSHIMA, JAPAN (7 August 2005) Shunpiking & News Agencies -- TENS OF THOUSANDS of people from around the world gathered in Hiroshima Saturday, 6 August, to renew calls for the abolition of nuclear arms on the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city.

Under a blazing summer sun, survivors and families of victims assembled at the Peace Memorial Park near "ground zero", the spot where the bomb detonated 6 August 1945, killing thousands and leveling the city, Reuters reported.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was among those attending the ceremony in Hiroshima, 690 km (430 miles) southwest of Tokyo.

At 8:15 a.m., the time when the US B-29 warplane Enola Gay dropped the bomb, people at the park and throughout the city observed a minute's silence in memory of those who perished. Some relatives of the victims of the 9/11/2001 attack on the New York Twin Towers were also present.

Bells at temples and churches rang and passengers on the streetcars that run throughout the city bowed their heads in remembrance of the dead, including those incinerated while riding the streetcars.

"This Aug. 6 ... is a time of inheritance, of awakening, and of commitment, in which we inherit the commitment of the bomb victims to the abolition of nuclear weapons and realization of genuine world peace," Hiroshima mayor Tadatoshi Akiba told the gathering.

Akiba said in his Peace Declaration that the five established nuclear powers -- the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China -- as well as Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea were "jeopardizing human survival".

The Hiroshima bomb unleashed a mix of shockwaves, heat rays and radiation that killed thousands instantly.

By the end of 1945 the toll had risen to some 140,000 out of an estimated population of 350,000. Thousands more died of illness and injuries later. Peace activists and Japanese called it the "nuclear holocaust."

On 9 August 1945, three days after the Hiroshima attack, another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

Hiroshima: for a nuclear weapon free world

Mayors from cities around the world also met in Hiroshima, to advocate for a world free from nuclear weapons by the year 2020. The meeting was held Friday at the International Conference Center, a few meters away from the exact spot the atomic bomb exploded.

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba asked the United Nations (UN) to create a special committee to work for a world free of nuclear weapons by 2020.

Akiba will present the proposal before the General Assembly in October to call on all countries to ratify the Treaty for Non-Proliferation, and to maintain the moratorium on atomic weapons testing.

In his 2004 Statement of Peace the Hiroshima mayor accused the US government of ignoring international law by continuing the production of smaller and easier-to-use nuclear weapons.

A World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs is in session in Hiroshima during the 60th anniversary of the US attack, attended by representatives of governments, pacifist movements and non-governmental organizations (NGO) to pay tribute to the 1945 victims.

Some hours before this march, hundreds of students visited the monument to Japanese girl Sadako Sasaki, who died of leukaemia at just 10 years old following nuclear radiation exposure. Sasaki believed that if she could make 1,000 paper cranes, she would recover, but she died before reaching her objective. Since then, students from throughout Japan come to the Park of Peace carrying paper cranes as a symbol of happiness and long life.

The anti-fascist war between the 1930s and 1940s was the first just war of a global scale in human history. Japan surrendered on 15 August 1945, ending the military aggression that brought it into World War Two. Over two billion people in Europe, asia, Africa and Oceania (exceeding four-fifths of the world's population at the time) were involved in the war. In China, the main battlefield against Japanese aggression in the Asian-Pacific region, Chinese casualties reached 35 million under the butcher knife of the Japanese army.

At Saturday's ceremony another 5,375 names were added to the list of Hiroshima's dead, bringing the total to 242,437.

Halifax "Peace Day"

Halifax joined other cities throughout the world which paused to commemorate this great tragedy. The Halifax Regional Municipality declared 6 August as Peace Day, and some 50 people gathered for a small ceremony at Dartmuth's Peace Park on the waterfront.

Some anti war activists, however, said that such a declaration was sentimental, bereft of any practical programme to ensure Halifax, the largest NATO port on the NW Atlantic and the most heavily-militarized harbour in Canada, actually becomes a zone of peace. In mid-July a NATO fleet with two nuclear vessels was welcomed by the federal and municipalgovernments.

Reportage in the Canadian media, in contrast to the media hoopla surrounding the liberation of Holland and the 60th anniversary of the victory over fascism in Europe on 8 May 2005, was minimal to say the least. The Halifax Sunday Herald on 7 August exonerated the atomic blitzkrieg of the two Japanese cities and, in disregard of all historical evidence, attacked "the growing number of misguided apologists" for not supporting the US myth that its bombing was "defensive" on behalf of "millions who were spared on both sides".

Iraq similarities

Americans hold up a sign apologizing for atomic atrocities in Hiroshima. (Reuters)

And two years after the US occupied Iraq, some American media experts see uncomfortable echoes between the suppression of images of death and destruction in Hiroshima and the atrocities of US raids and killed US soldiers in the oil-rich Arab country.

"Although there are clearly huge differences with Iraq, there are also some similarities," Reuters quoted Greg Mitchell, co-author of "Hiroshima in America," as saying in an article in Editor & Publisher, a journal of the newspaper industry.

"The chief similarity is that Americans are still being kept at a distance from images of death, whether of their own soldiers or Iraqi civilians," he said.

In May, the Los Angeles Times released a survey of six months of media coverage of the Iraq war in six prominent US newspapers and two newsmagazines -- a period during which 559 US-led occupation forces, the vast majority American, were killed.

"There's a mixture of censorship and self-censorship. In an information age, unfortunately what is missing is truthful and factual information," Yahya Kamalipour, a communications professor at Purdue University in Indiana and author of Bring 'Em On: Media and Politics in the Iraq War, told Reuters.

Examples of overt censorship are the Pentagon's ban on filming the coffins of dead servicemen and women being brought back to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, as well as its continuing legal fight to prevent the publication of photographs and videos of detainee abuse in Abu Ghraib prison.

Self-censorship happens when individual editors decide not to run photographs or footage of casualties because they deem them "too shocking" for readers or because they wish to avoid controversy or criticism.

"So much of the media is owned by big corporations and they would much rather focus on making money than setting themselves up for criticism from the White House and Congress," said Ralph Begleiter, a former CNN correspondent, now a journalism professor at the University of Delaware.

No similar studies exist of the role of the monopoly media in Canada, which have adopted a "business as usual" attitude towards the war.

In the weeks following the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, US authorities seized and suppressed film shot in the bombed cities by US military crews and Japanese newsreel teams to prevent Americans from seeing the full extent of devastation wrought by the new weapons.

The US military footage shot in colour was classified as secret. It remained hidden until the early 1980s and has never been fully aired. The Japanese film shot in black and white was declassified and returned to Japan in the late 1960s.

"They succeeded but the subject is still a raw nerve. Americans remain very divided about nuclear weapons. We'll never know what impact the footage, if widely aired, might have had on the nuclear arms race and nuclear proliferation that plagues and endangers us today," Mitchell said.

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