“Why do they need them anyway?”

Statement Raymond Becker
Commune de Kayl 6.8.2023 (Tétange-Schungfabrik)

Commemoration in honour of the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear attacks in 1945

Excellency Mr Ambassador of Japan,
Mr Mayor of the municipality of Kayl,
Value Deputies,
Dear President of the association of Luxembourg cities and municipalities (SYVICOL),
Dear representatives of the Mayors for Peace municipalities,
Distinguished guests,

“We must ask the question, which might sound naïve to those who have elaborated sophisticated arguments to justify their refusal to eliminate these terrible and terrifying weapons of mass destruction – why do they need them anyway? In reality, no rational answer can be advanced to explain what, in the end, is the consequence of Cold War inertia and an attachment to the use of the threat of brute force.”

Nelson Mandela from his 1998 retirement-speech to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

“Why do they need them anyway?” The question posed by the South African President is still relevant today.

Distinguished guests,
The world is now closer to nuclear catastrophe than at any time since the height of the Cold War. In January the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in announcing that the hands of the Doomsday Clock were moving to 90 seconds to midnight, the closest in the Clock’s 76-year history. We face a greater existential threat from nuclear conflict today than at any time since the height of the Cold War.

This with the erosion of the taboo against nuclear use, the near total breakdown of the remaining nuclear arms control architecture between Russia and the United States of America, following Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, and the emergence of potentially destabilising new technologies, including Artificial Intelligence (AI).

It must be clear to everybody: The risk of an atomic war has rarely been this high. Russia’s nuclear threats in Ukraine, China’s booming arsenal and the worrying modernisation of mass destruction weapons among all the 9 powers that possess them. 78 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the atmosphere is explosive.

So long as nuclear weapons remain in existence, it is highly likely that they will eventually be used – if not by design, then by human error, miscalculation, or misjudgement.

Distinguished guests,
As civil society in the spirit of the Mayors for Peace movement, we strongly support a world without nuclear weapons. This is the only way to remove the catastrophic risk of nuclear weapons being used again. Any such use will be catastrophic for life on this planet. Even a so called limited nuclear war has been estimated to kill up to 2 billion people from the climatic impacts of nuclear winter, while a full-scale nuclear conflict could kill 5 billion people, and potentially cause the extinction of humanity.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is very clear, they warn that no country individually, nor the international system collectively, has the capacity to cope with the humanitarian and environmental consequences of the use of nuclear weapons.

Having seen the devastation atomic bombs wrought on Japan, J. Robert Oppenheimer and many Manhattan Project scientists understood that the continued development of nuclear weapons by the United States would inevitably lead to an arms race with the Soviet Union. Eight days following the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki, the chief scientist over the atomic bomb’s development at the Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico, sent a letter to the secretary of war doubting the possibility of peace through continued development of nuclear arsenals. In 1953, Oppenheimer would further warn about the potential for this new weapon to provoke an arms race fuelled by profiteering, the instability of the myth of “nuclear peace,” and the constant overwhelming risk these weapons pose to the existence of civilization.
Today, Oppenheimer’s post-war concerns appear amply justified.

The film ‚Oppenheimer‘ tells us how nuclear weapons began, but we decide how they will end.

Distinguished guests,
At the recent G-7 summit, Japan told world leaders to work for “a world without nuclear weapons”—but the tide is turning in the opposite direction.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida decided to hold this G-7 meeting several weeks ago in Hiroshima as a way of urging his fellow leaders to work for “a world without nuclear weapons.” Now, he said, “is the moment we must insist on the need to revitalize … nuclear disarmament.”
The fact is, the world is less disposed to nuclear arms control than at any time in the past half-century—and the pressures for a renewed nuclear arms race, this time involving more than just two players, are disturbingly intense.

Those who survived the atomic bombings in 1945 are known as Hibakusha. Many of them like Setsuko Thurlow, voiced anger, and disappointment at the Group of Seven nations‘ summit after the leaders released a statement that supported the possession of nuclear weapons for deterrence and failed to mention the treaty banning nuclear arms.

Even the conclusion made in the Bali-Declaration in November 2022 by Leaders of the G-20 countries “The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible” is no longer mentioned in the Hiroshima-Declaration.

The 91-year-old Thurlow called the G-7 summit a „huge failure“, calling the Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament statement issued a „blasphemy against atomic bomb survivors.“

What must be our aim? We must come to concrete disarmament negotiations on nuclear weapons. We want a world free of nuclear weapons at least in 2045 for the 100th anniversary of the United Nations.

Distinguished guests,
I would like to close with a statement from Hidehiko Yuzaki, governor of the Hiroshima Prefecture:

“This year, as we prepare to mark the Aug. 6 and Aug. 9 anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world is at a crossroads.

Down one path, war in Ukraine teeters on the nuclear brink, and we sit on the precipice of a new nuclear arms race that would divert resources from health care, education, and the urgent fight against climate change.
Down the other path is a safer, freer future where people and the planet are thriving, and nuclear weapons have no purpose.
We all have a role to play in leading the world down the better path.”

There is nothing more to add to this.