Follow Up and Clarification On The Hiroshima Apology Cable: I Was Wrong, I Apologize…and More

This is my indignation going up in smoke.

There are certain advantages that come from making an incorrect conclusion and publicizing it: sometimes you learn something valuable.

Here’s what I have learned about the diplomatic cable discussed in my post, “How Do I Write A Measured Ethical Analysis When I Am Shaking With Indignation and Rage?“:

1. The officer was reporting a hypothetical situation that the Japanese government official raised during the planning stage of the Obama’s visit.

2. The White House never proposed an apology. The fear of the Japanese was that if he went to Hiroshima, some groups within the country would expect an apology.

3.This key paragraph contains the officer’s assurance to the American Ambassador that the Japanese government would prevent any call, from the Japanese, for a public Presidential apology.

I have all of this from a reliable, credible diplomatic source who I know personally and who was in Japan at the time the cable was sent. This is no credit to me: I received an e-mail that said, in effect, “You Moron! You have no idea how to read diplomatic cables!!! Here’s what really happened…”

What more have I learned?

  • Nobody else seems to know how to read cables either. My sources were many, including the usually reliable Instapundit, before I actually read the cable after it was linked in a comment.
  • This is why Wikileaks does more harm than good, as I have maintained from the beginning.
  • If the left-end media did its job, it would have clarified this already. Instead, using its now familiar tactic of burying any story that makes the Administration look bad, a false indictment of the President’s judgment is being widely disseminated by well-meaning, and some not so well-meaning, commentators like me. This post isn’t going to put a dent in it.
  • Some people will defend Obama no matter what he does. There can be no legitimate defense for a Presidential apology in Hiroshima. As it happens, none is necessary.
  • This incident raises the question of whether I have so little faith in President Obama’s leadership judgment at this point that I am biased, and unfairly inclined to see his conduct as weak and inept. I am sure this is true. I will work as hard as I can to adjust for that.

Ethics Alarms and its abashed, diplomatic cable-challenged author apologize profusely to the President and his aides for concluding that he had considered this, when he had not.

9 thoughts on “Follow Up and Clarification On The Hiroshima Apology Cable: I Was Wrong, I Apologize…and More

  1. Pingback: How Do I Write A Measured Ethical Analysis When I Am Shaking With Indignation and Rage? | Ethics Alarms

  2. Jack, I understand your apology. When I first read what you had written I was overwhelmed with anger and frustration. I totally agree with you about not apologizing for the past when it was a calculated move to prevent the loss of American Life. I looked for the true source and pondered. I also had to look at history, as I usually do, to see if any U.S. leader or diplomat had done it before. There has and they later paid the price. I don’t think you overreacted.

  3. This is something I like about you. The ability to accept facts and alter your view to fit them is what separates someone with a differing perspective from a Republican presidential candidate.

  4. Hear Hear Chase – well said… that’s what I like about Jack too – I respect him more when he learns and grows – that’s what life is all about. This whole black and white bullshit that has us all divided – it’s by design. There’s shades of gray in every debate – and this situation is a prime example. Kudos to Jack for stepping up and being a man about it.

  5. While I admire your acceptance of responsibility for what appears to have been a misinterpretation, your commentary raises other issues.

    There are legitimate legal, ethical and pragmatic reasons to object to WikiLeaks; I don’t see this as one of them. The press in general was characteristically lazy and didn’t do its collective job; someone took a phrase out of context, leading to defamatory statements about the POTUS, and (for a while, at least) no one bothered to correct the record. In other words: what has happened every day of at least the last three administrations.

    Whether the first reporter to suggest that Obama was contemplating an apology is merely incompetent or motivated by politics really doesn’t matter, because both ineptness and bias were certainly both at play very early. But I don’t see how WikiLeaks is any more responsible in this case than President Obama himself was: both had things which were not true attributed to them by a lazy journalistic corps. How is that their fault? (The fact that they may have committed manifold transgressions in other ways doesn’t mean they did this time.)

    I find it difficult, moreover, to blame the “left-end media” for failing to “clarify” the situation. The usual suspects on the right were the ones who really ran with the story, and they’re not about to let a little thing like accuracy stand in their way (cf. “death panels,” birtherism, non-existent cuts to military spending, etc.). If the mainstream press worried about correcting every fact-impaired proclamation from the likes of IBD, they’d have time for little else. I hadn’t seen anything about the cable until I read your post: maybe that was because the left-leaning press was “suppressing” the story, but a more plausible explanation would be simply that they didn’t see a story there. After reading the cable, I agree: as Gertrude Stein famously said of Oakland, there is no there there.

    Read with the intention of finding something to complain about with respect to the Obama administration, the cable admits of the interpretation provided by much of the media. Viewed more objectively, the cable is ambiguous, but my tentative reading (in my comment on your earlier post) seems to have been fairly accurate. There is much to criticize about the more progressive media, but to blame them for diffidence or lethargy more than criticizing the conservative press for recklessly (not to say intentionally, although that of course is possible) spewing information that turns out to be false seems a bit much.

    Moreover, it is all too true that biased media outlets find a way to spin their message into ostensibly objective reporting by covering the controversy itself rather than the event which supposedly created the controversy. In other words, you can proclaim pretty much whatever crackpot idea the bosses want propagated if you start your discussion with “Some people are saying…”. Fox News is the acknowledged master of this tactic, but they certainly have plenty of company on both sides of the political divide.

    What is a lesson to be learned, however, is something that I struggle with all the time: go to the source. I learned at a conference last year that a famous event in theatre history which I’ve been describing to my classes for a generation in fact never happened, or at least never happened on anything like the scale I’d been taught and had therefore passed on to others. The scholar who made that point quoted from the actual contemporary documents, and also pointed to the source of the misinformation: a book published over a half a century after the events described. But a generally well-written book (in other ways) gets a lot more circulation that journal entries and newspaper clippings in a foreign language do, so the event has been mischaracterized ever since.

    I try, in my own writing—both academic and on my blog—to find my way back to the original documents. But it doesn’t always happen, either because of the difficulty of doing so, or of time pressures (a.k.a., laziness), or of confirmation bias. Sooner or later, you have to trust someone to have accurately reported events. Sometimes that trust is misplaced. We learn, and we go on.

  6. Number 2 is why no American President to date has visited Hiroshima, fear that the Japanese victims would demand an apology, and that the Uyoku (right wing crazies in black buses blaring WWII music) would cause trouble.

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