The truth is being hijacked

• Affirms Fidel during a meeting with members of the Japanese Peace Cruise that arrived in Cuba on September 21 from the Canary Islands

Leticia Martínez Hernández
EVERYBODY in the hall was shaken, including Fidel. They were the words of Junko Watanabe, who was barely two years old on that tragic August 6, 1945. She was playing with her brother in the yard of their home when her mother’s agonized cries interrupted their absorption in the game to warn them that something horrific was happening. Junko does not remember anything about that lugubrious day, but has reconstructed every second of the act that tore her apart like the burns that blinded thousands of Japanese there in Hiroshima, the city which was destroyed when Junko had barely begun to take her first steps.
This woman, wise and sad, traveled together with more than 600 Japanese aboard the Peace Boat, convened to “Learn from past wars to build a future of peace.” In my judgment, this slogan has a special value, Fidel said some minutes before listening with consternation to Junko’s testimony. “I would dare say without any doubt that never in human history has there been a moment as dangerous as this one. This is not about an excursion, this is about a struggle that is real and serious. I hope that these exchanges will enlighten us as to what is being thought, what formulas could be possible, as to realistic solutions, not just a simple expression of a desire. For me the meeting has great importance precisely because of the experience that you have accumulated on this subject,” Fidel told them precisely on September 21, World Day of Peace.

Junko spoke of that experience in Fidel’s meeting with the members of the Peace Boat, the cruise liner that has docked in Cuban ports on various occasions since 1990. She told a heartrending story which, at times, made her voice shake, made her weep. Junko said that it was lovely weather in Hiroshima that August morning, but “a black and sticky rain began to fall on us.” Her parents told her that, afterward, she began to suffer from the attacks of diarrhea which threatened her short life. “I could eat, but not digest the food. My parents thought that I would die.”
Perhaps it was the memories of this hibakusha (atomic bomb survivor) which prompted the Comandante to recall his visit to Hiroshima, “I was in the Museum. They explained everything to me there, what survived, what didn’t. One of the most horrific images was of the unborn children of pregnant mothers with some months left…The real fact is that today humanity is threatened with things as horrific as you have told us, or even worse.”
For that reason Fidel gave so much attention to the meeting,” I was glad to received the invitation to dialogue with you, given the importance of the moment at which we are living, which is not just any moment, but also out of a sense of gratitude, as I know of your solidarity, the difficulties, the struggle against blockades during these years, the boat’s identity, the ports where you could go and where you couldn’t go, whether they allowed you to refuel or not.” He then recalled that August day when he heard the news of the attack. “I was a student. It was summer there in Santiago de Cuba…Nobody had the faintest idea of the existence of a weapon of that nature.”
He then told Junko that he had found many documents of older survivors who had relived a past of terror through their stories. Junko recalled the images of a documentary by Japanese journalists in which “the scenes are brutal, the city is disappearing, turning black, where the people are mindlessly walking the streets, full of dismembered bodies.”
Then the Comandante, with his usual sensitivity, apologized for the questions that he wanted to ask her. He told her that the meeting was to be broadcast on national television, if she had no objections. “We are very interested in public opinion being aware of all this, not just transmitting it here, but in other countries. What happened there is extremely important, independently of what has been published.”  Fidel wanted to know how long it took for the dust produced by the bomb to reach the people. Junko searched in her memory. She answered, around 30 minutes. “Were your parents in the house? Did your mother suffer burns?” he inquired. Junko explained that her family lived 18 kilometers from where the bomb exploded, and what they received was a wave of dust, that her mother and other little brother were outside of the house, that her father was in a building in the city from where he saw the airplane which sent Hiroshima into mourning.
After the questions, Fidel informed the members of the Peace Boat, on its fourteenth visit to Cuba, of the recent visit by Alan Robock, the highly regarded researcher from Rutgers University, who gave a lecture on the nuclear winter theory, based on the danger signified by a regional nuclear war. “He starts out from current facts, very different from that moment when the first nuclear war was launched. He takes into account the current situation, with the existence of 25,000 nuclear weapons. He says that 100 nuclear explosions would suffice to produce what he describes as a nuclear winter. For example, a war between India and Pakistan with the number of weapons in each ones possession, would be sufficient to put an end to life on the planet.”
The Comandante said that he would give them a copy of the conference because it contains information of great value. He recalled the fact that “the power of existing weapons is 45,000 times greater than that of either of the two bombs dropped on Japan.” Then it occurred to him that Robock, “a generous, splendid man,” could give a lecture on the dimensions of the danger to the members of the Japanese organization. He explained that a nuclear explosion would result in clouds of dust extending throughout the world in less than three weeks, that temperatures would fall to freezing point, thus implying the disappearance of all food production.
Fidel went on to comment on the worldwide ignorance of the issue despite the volume of prestigious research, and on the term “state of denial,” referred to by Robock in the context of people rejecting the idea of thinking about horrific things. That explanation, Fidel noted could be extended by other aspects related to the media. “There is information about things that are happening in the world, but despite all the existing media, there are no explanations. The truth has been hijacked, it is not known. Of course, if the masses cannot read or write, they cannot even attempt to find out.” He spoke of the case of Cuba, of its Revolution, “which has not been defended with force, but has been defended with knowledge, with awareness,” despite 50 years of blockade.
Later on, with the same insistence, Fidel asked what has been said about the environment, about climate change. “There’s no need to wait for a nuclear war for life to disappear on the planet.” He recalled that the development of countries is based on non-renewable energy sources like oil. “One hundred million barrels extracted every day! Humans are wasting oil that nature has accumulated in 400 million years… they have wasted half of that fuel in 130 years.” And he spoke of another problem that nations have to approach: “The population cannot grow in an unlimited way. A population of approximately 9-10 billion inhabitants is being calculated for the year 2050.” Fidel affirmed his opinion that people have to enjoy life and what is happening is that approximately 8-10 million children are dying every year as a consequence of hunger or a lack of medication.
The leader of the Revolution was then informed of the Cuban doctor invited aboard the Peace Boat. He is Iván Toledo Rosa, who was saving lives in Haiti, and then of the dancer José Ramón Mendiola Osorio, a kind of Cuban cultural ambassador on the Japanese cruise liner. Fidel thanked them both, after commenting on the internationalist vocation of Cuban doctors, who have extended a hand of solidarity in many countries of the world. “It is a test of conscience. What our compañeros did in Haiti is a product of conscience, the conscience that made the Revolution possible… in spite of the criticisms made of us and the errors that we could have committed because no human work is perfect.”
Fidel recalled that this is an important moment because the United Nations is discussing its millennium goals: “The United Nations is the only one that, supposedly, we have – because on occasions it would seem that it doesn’t exist – given that problems of development, goals in education, goals in health are actually discussed there, and every time that there is a crisis, a setback occurs.” He spoke about the purchasing power of U.S. citizens, which has been reduced by 43.6%, about the consequences of underemployment, about the 80% of engineers in the United States working in the military industry.
“It is a great democracy, to such an extent that it has 12,000 lobbyists in Congress, which costs $3.5 billion per year. Result: all the big transnationals have control over the U.S. Congress, which is the institution that has to ratify agreements; if there is a disarmament agreement or an agreement on the reduction of nuclear weapons, it is Congress that has to approve them. Now the role of a president in the United States is an unknown one. He cannot do anything, and this is the man who has a nuclear briefcase.”
Referring to those sad days of August 1945, Fidel concluded that “it was not necessary to utilize that bomb. The imperial forces of Japan were already defeated, there was no need to drop those bombs to win that war. It was an act of cruelty, an experiment,” he stated.
And in the face of the possibility of another tragedy he brought up the discord over Iran: “If they attack Iran in order to destroyer its nuclear reactors the war will become nuclear.” From there, he once again insisted on the need to pay greater attention to the subject, to cooperate, to be aware of the dangers. It was then that many people understood Fidel’s message when, minutes earlier, he asked Nao Inoue, leader of the Peace Boat delegation, “Could you tell me the speed of the Peace Boat?” to which Nao replied smiling, “More or less that of a fast bicycle.” And Fidel, said outright: “I think that in these times the Peace Boat should travel faster.”
The Peace Boat sailed for the first time in 1983. Since then, the Japanese non-governmental organization has made 70 voyages around the world bearing its message of peace. According to its director, Nao Inoue, more than 40,000 Japanese have taken part in these voyages under the slogan: “Learn from past wars to build a better future.” During the meeting with the leader of the Revolution, Nao Inoue said that the Japanese pacifists are against the U.S. blockade of Cuba and also advocate the liberation of the five Cuban heroes. “We want to extend a bridge between Japan and Cuba, between Latin American and Asian countries,” he commented. And in that endeavor they are going to sea again to visit Nicaragua.
Translated by Granma International

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