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The Hiroshima Declaration of the Pugwash Council

Issued 23 July 1995

FIFTY years ago, two American atomic bombs destroyed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those two mushroom clouds and the horrific devastation beneath them marked the end of the most destructive war in history and, at the same time, the beginning of a new era dominated by the danger that global nuclear war would wreak more havoc in six hours than World War II had wrought in six years.

Civilization is fortunate to have survived the half century since 1945 with no such nuclear war and, indeed, no further explosion of a nuclear weapon in anger. This may have been partly the result of sensible restraint and good management, but it has also been partly the result of good luck.

In these fifty years, the number of nations declaring themselves possessors of nuclear weaponry increased form one to five; the number possessing them without declaring so increased from zero to three or more; and the total number of nuclear weapons on the planet grew to a peak of 70,000 before beginning a gradual decline.

During this period, the use of nuclear weapons was explicitly threatened occasionally, implicitly threatened continuously, seriously contemplated more often than will ever be admitted, and narrowly averted, more than once, by the last minute quenching of crises that had careened to the brink of nuclear war. A close review of this history offers little bases for complacency that a nuclearly armed world will succeed in refraining indefinitely from using these weapons again.

On the contrary, there can be no real safety against nuclear destruction until the weapons themselves have been destroyed, their possession forsworn, their production prohibited, their ingredients made inaccessible to those who might seek to evade the prohibition. Indeed, real safety will require still more. Because the knowledge of how to construct nuclear weapons cannot be erased from human memory, and because, in the extremity of war, nations that previously forswore them may race to produce them anew, it will be necessary to eliminate war itself as a means of resolving disputes among nations.

This view may appear utopian, but to reject it is to accept not only the possibility but the inevitability that someday, somewhere, immense numbers of people will again perish under nuclear mushroom clouds like those that obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki fifty years ago. It could be hundreds or thousands of mushroom clouds in the mindless spasm of a large nuclear war; it could be one mushroom here, a few there, in scattered acts of nuclear violence committed by warring nations, or by the factions in civil wars, or by terrorists.

Wherever, whenever, however many mushroom clouds it may be, we say such an outcome is unacceptable and must be prevented. It can only be prevented if nuclear weapons and, ultimately, war itself are banned from this planet.

The end of the Cold War, and the beginning of deep reductions in the huge nuclear arsenals that the Cold War spawned, have provided an unprecedented opportunity for the world to take further decisive steps toward achievement of these ends. The opportunity must be seized, or it will be lost... and civilization may be lost.

In this fiftieth year after the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, therefore, we, the Council of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, rededicate ourselves to the goals of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto of 1955 that initiated the Pugwash movement, that is, to the abolition of nuclear weapons and the abolition of war. We invite all of humankind to join us in this effort.

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