One of the leaders of a local peace activist group said Tuesday that the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty by Presidents George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev last week provided a positive omen for future global relations.
Louise Hanson, coordinator of the Lawrence Coalition of Peace and Justice, commented about the START treaty, which is intended to reduce the nuclear arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union by 30 percent, during the group's annual observance of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.
Tuesday marked the 46th anniversary of the bombing, which occured near the end of World War II.
"THIS IS the first time that we've drawn attention to the public to what we think is a hopeful sign the START treaty," she said. "It is quite literally a start to the end of the arms race. This is the first time we've been able to demonstrate with a hopeful message."
Mrs. Hanson was one of about 50 people who gathered during the noon hour along the corners of Ninth and Massachusetts streets. The group, attired in black armbands, divided into four smaller groups that stood at each of the corners of the intersection. At three of the corners, signs were held decrying the death tolls of 75,000 people at Hiroshima, 39,000 people at Nagasaki, Japan, which was bombed three days after Hiroshima, and the estimated 100,000 people killed during the Persian Gulf war.
AND AT ONE corner, one of the observers held a sign that read "million saved" by the START treaty.
The observance, said Mrs. Hanson, "is an important marker day for people who are interested in the peace movement." While the event showed that war has a long history, she added "it means that people can change the way they conduct the business of war and peace."
The group remains steadfast in seeing no justification for the use of nuclear weapons, Mrs. Hanson said.
"WE ARE SAYING that the use of nuclear weapons should never happen again," Mrs. Hanson said. "They are horrendous weapons of mass destruction, they are incalculable in their damage. We see it as an immoral act."
Tom Berger said that, as a Vietnam veteran, the observance took on several meanings for him.
"War is an absolute folly as a way of solving conflict," he said. "To take that one step further, the extreme is the use of nuclear weapons to resolve a conflict. We need to be reminded of the terrible death and destruction caused by war and the use of nuclear weapons."
BERGER, associate director of Affirmative Action at Kansas University, said he still saw the threat of nuclear weapons despite the signing of the START treaty.
"I think the danger still exists for proliferation and the use by people who aren't in their right mind," he said.