[Reblogged from GMCDP Blog with thanks]
Foreward: Many disabled people are angry that the national lottery has awarded Leonard Cheshire Disability almost £300K to document the history of disabled people. We therefore thought it quite timely to reproduce the following article (first published in our Coalition News – May 1987), which is as powerful and relevant today as when our friend and colleague Ken Davis wrote it almost 30 years ago.
Disability and the Bomb – the connection
By Ken Davis
I am writing this on August 6th, 1986—the 41st anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb on the unsuspecting, defenceless and innocent civilian population of Hiroshima.
There was no warning. After the explosion, some 140,000 ordinary people lay dead or dying. Men and women; old and young; teenagers and tiny tots; the sick in hospitals; babies in their mothers’ wombs. There was no escape.
They called the bomb “Little Boy” (what an insult, that humanity should be incinerated in the name of children!). The U.S.B29 bomber, the Enola Gay, carried more than one connection with disability. Little Boy was carried not only to inflict death—but to cause physical impairment in countless thousands of people. The Enola Gay also carried a person called Leonard Cheshire, founder of the international chain of segregated institutions for disabled people.
The disabled peoples’ movement has much to say on these matters. As it gains strength, it will add to the growing condemnation of war and violence as a means of resolving human conflict. Many more thousands of innocent people since Hiroshima have become disabled through war. The plights of our brothers and sisters in disability across the world cannot be imagined by us here in Britain. The suffering of those disabled people displaced by war into refugee camps is unutterably intolerable.
Back in 1982, the Disabled Peoples’ International made the following Peace Statement at Hiroshima:
“We, the representatives of all the world’s disabled peoples, have come to Hiroshima to make known our resolute condemnation of the arms race.
“We affirm, in the strongest possible terms, our determination to join with others and take our rightful place in the forefront of the worldwide movement of disarmament.
“We, the 500million disabled people of the world, declare that we will fight for the exclusion and annihilation of wars and nuclear weapons from the earth.”
Again, as our movement grows, Leonard Cheshire VC, and many others like him, how have used “compassion for the disabled” as a convenient stepping-stone to lucrative social careers, will be called to account for their actions. The Honours Lists are littered with the names of such people, who have chosen to speak and act in the name of disabled people without our authority.
This year—1986—is the International Peace Year. In a world besotted by war and violence, it is a timely reminder that there are higher ideals and finer values which can guide human conduct in the struggle to establish a better social order. It is also timely, on the 41st anniversary of Hiroshima, to remind ourselves of the long legacy of disability stemming from this shocking event.
The 1965 survey of the Hibakusha—the survivors of the bomb—showed their rate of physical impairment to be 350% higher than the Japanese national average. Some 44% of the survivors were sick or injured—a figure which had risen up to 59% by the 1975 survey.
Truly, those who died were the lucky ones. Obviously, cancers figure high in survivors, as does the incidence of leukaemia. These are caused by exposure to radiation and radioactivity, which guarantees long-term agony.
Many of those whose eyeballs didn’t burst in the intense heat now suffer from eye disorders. Microcephalic (small head size) victims have found their condition degenerating over the years. Gross disfigurement, e.g. from keloids on the skin, adds another dimension to disability. The psychological and social effects are profound and still imperfectly understood.
Many disabled people will be able to identity with the effects of these impairments. The Hibakusha share with us many of the same problems of rehabilitation and social integration. They suffer discrimination in employments, and even marriage. Their incomes are small, and they know as much about the poverty trap as any British claimant. Their families are the main source of support and, as they begin to age, carers come under increasing stress.
Through our membership of the British Council of Organisations of Disabled People, the Derbyshire Coalition of Disabled People is directly linked to Disabled Peoples’ International. Japan cones within the Asia-Pacific region of DPI, and the Regional Chairperson of himself Japanese—a spinal injured wheelchair-user, Senator Hita Yashiro. Hita is a living example of the additional grit and determination disabled people have to find if they seek high office.
Interestingly, the Chairperson of the DPI Human Rights Committee brought the news to the last DPI World Congress that putting disabled people away in institutions in Japan had been ruled a violation of human rights.
Relentlessly, the connection between disability and the bomb becomes clear. The mentality that made Leonard Cheshire a compliant participant in the mass creation of disability at Hiroshima is the same mentality which made him the instigator of the mass incarceration of disabled people in a chain of segregated institutions.
In the first place he went over the top of the heads of disabled people in a B29 bomber; in the second he went over our heads in the name of charity. Increasingly, over the years, both actions have come to attract just abhorrence.
In our struggle to realise the aims of the International Year of Disabled People—full participation and equality—we have to find the strength to insist that our representative organisations are fully involved in decisions about the dismantling of disabled apartheid. And we have to add our insistent voice to the clamour for world disarmament—with the aim of removing, for all time, this particularly horrifying cause of unnecessary disability.
Footnote: 1. Later research indicates that Leonard Cheshire was on the Big Stink (a B-29 support plane) on 9 August 1945 when the Enola Gay aircraft dropped the second atomic bomb, named Fat Man, on Nagasaki, and that he was not onboard the Enola Gay on 6 August 1945 when it dropped the bomb named Little Boy on Hiroshima as previously thought.
Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Cheshire, accessed 16 May 2015.