Part One: Blessed be the warmakers
The Reverend Mr Kiyoshi Tanimoto was “a small man, quick to talk, laugh, and cry”. He was a pastor, and that morning he rose early to help a neighbour moving furniture – in particular a large cabinet filled with clothes and personal possessions. But while working out how he was going to do this, everything changed.
A flash moved east to west; it was extremely bright but it made no noise. Later, no-one who was there could remember any noise. Eventually he stood up from the rocks behind which he had thrown himself but he had no sense of what was happening. He staggered to the street where a woman, clearly hurt, was carrying a four-year-old boy.
He took the boy onto his shoulders and took the woman by the hand to where others were going – a community centre, but without windows. There were already 60 or 70 badly hurt people lying on the broken glass. From here he believed he could find out what had happened; there was a vantage point which would offer him a proper panorama of the city.
Except when he got there he couldn’t understand what he was seeing. There was no city. There was nothing. A full, bustling metropolis with people going to work, children getting ready for school, the lucky ones still in their beds. It was… just not there any more.
Mr Tanimoto was a Pastor in Hiroshima.
As he looked out the city was shrouded in a darkening murk, a miasma of gloomy mists and smoke punctuated only by pin pricks of fire everywhere. Below, in this murk, somewhere, were his wife and baby, his church, his home, his parishioners.
For the rest of the day Mr Tanimoto fought his way through the fire, the murk, the devastation, rescuing who he could. Eventually:
“Mr. Tanimoto found about twenty men and women on the sandspit. He drove the boat onto the bank and urged them to get aboard. They did not move and he realized that they were too weak to lift themselves. He reached down and took a woman by the hands, but her skin slipped off in huge, glove-like pieces. He was so sickened by this that he had to sit down for a moment.
Then he got out into the water and, though a small man, lifted several of the men and women, who were naked, into his boat. Their backs and breasts were clammy, and he remembered uneasily what the great burns he had seen during the day had been like: yellow at first, then red and swollen, with the skin sloughed off, and finally, in the evening, suppurated and smelly.
With the tide risen, his bamboo pole was now too short and he had to paddle most of the way across with it. On the other side, at a higher spit, he lifted the slimy living bodies out and carried them up the slope away from the tide. He had to keep consciously repeating to himself, ‘These are human beings.’ It took him three trips to get them all across the river. When he had finished, he decided he had to have a rest, and he went back to the park.”
When bombs fall, went guns fire, when blood spills, when buildings fall into rubble, we decry war, violence, hatred, inhumanity – and then, more often than not, we run towards it, more scared than horrified.
When bombs fall, went guns fire, when blood spills, when buildings fall into rubble, we decry war, violence, hatred, inhumanity. And then, more often than not, we run towards it, more scared than horrified.
There is always someone to run towards. On ‘their’ side, there is always someone who wants to drop a bomb, fire a gun, kill. This makes us feel unsafe, but it is OK because on our side is someone who wants to drop a bomb, fire a gun and kill too. In conflict they step forward loudly, taking tragedy as an opportunity to mould the future into the shape of their own mind, which seems perpetually at war.
In 2012, the SNP handed the soul of the party to those people. I was closely involved with the campaign to oppose the Nato vote and I know precisely what dirty dealings had to be done to squeeze that vote over the line by the narrowest of margins.
I had prepared briefings for a number of the SNP politicians who opposed this. I repeatedly made the point that this was the start, not the end, of the transformation of the SNP. I warned that this step made the SNP Atlanticist, loyal followers and enablers of United States foreign policy. I said that the non-nuclear stance would undoubtedly be the next target, but that this would change forever the SNP’s position on global issues, from Palestine or Saudi Arabia to Russia and China.
There were staged gasps of outrage from the Nato party when John Finnie asked what this meant for the SNP, who would now be whispering in its ear, forever. The outrage was that they’d promised ‘this far and no further’ and it was unseemly to question them.
So remember this; for five months after the war crimes in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (make no mistake, these were appalling atrocities well outside the rules of engagement, targeted at civilians to create terror), the citizens of the United States were told that Hiroshima was a military base. Honesty is not a crucial aspect of Western foreign policy. Nothing is ever enough.
The choreography over the SNP’s nuclear U-Turn has been emerging for a while. The word ‘multilateral’ was sneaked into a document last year and now the word ‘permanent’ is being attached to the anti-nuclear commitment. “Expectation and Hope” is intentionally non-committal. None of this is loose wording.
Nor is it accidental. There is nothing to mistake here, nothing to be confused about. If Scotland ratifies the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as is party policy, it would become illegal to have nuclear weapons in Scottish territory, no ifs, no buts. This is the nuclear disarmament of the United Kingdom and there is zero chance Nato will permit it. None whatsoever.
Voices for peace find it hard to be heard at a time like this, but that only means we must raise our voices
Dropping the nuclear commitment will not be the end. As the SNP careers ever-further to the political right, its foreign policy will become increasingly indecipherable from the UK/US foreign policy consensus. All of it. Do not pretend otherwise.
This hell-scape – a world plunged back into a long cold war, Russia, China and potentially India on one side, Nato on the other, Africa and Latin America forced to choose – is where we are being taken by those who always use war to create more war.
They are always small people. Not small like Mr. Tanimoto, a slight man who had in him the strength to drag those ‘slimy living bodies’ to the best version of safety he could find. The kind of small which drives small people to cling to the powerful.
But their future is not the only future. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine need not drag us all down to that level. We can stand taller than this. Voices for peace find it hard to be heard at a time like this, but that only means we must raise our voices.
In this five-part series I want to continue from here to argue first that the simple solutions being sold by the warmongers are nothing like simple, then that the world they promise is not one in which humans can live, then that there is a different, better future for the world, then that there is a different, better future for Scotland in that world.
Mr Tanimoto had the dignity and courage to defy horror and become better because of it. He sought neither revenge nor escalation but peace and reconciliation. As each day passes and the Scottish warmongers raise their voices louder and louder, let the voice that guides you be not theirs but his.