“We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women, and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner.”
—-President Obama, speaking at the Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park in Japan, in a controversial visit to the site of the Unites States’ decisive use of the atom bomb to defeat Japan without an invasion in 1945.
Good job. Whoever drafted the speech—it may well have been Obama himself—perfectly threaded the needle, simultaneously making a compassionate diplomatic gesture and yet including an unmistakable reference to who was really at fault for the carnage. Those Korean casualties were captured and enslaved citizens of a sovereign nation, acquired as Imperial Japan swept over Asia like locusts. Those prisoners were prisoners of war, and horribly mistreated ones.
The passage of time made Obama’s subtlety more appropriate than President Harry Truman’s typically blunt response to an Aug. 9, 1945 telegram from Samuel Cavert, the general secretary of the Federal Council of the Churches in Christ in America, saying he was “greatly disturbed” by Truman’s use of the bomb:
“I appreciated very much your telegram… Nobody is more disturbed over the use of the atomic bombs than I am but I was greatly disturbed over the unwarranted attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor and their murder of our prisoners of war.”
I guess I still like Harry’s comment better. I also don’t much care for the timing of the visit, occurring as it does so near to Memorial Day. I find myself wondering what my father would have thought about this, knowing that he was already training to take part in the Japan invasion when Truman opted for a nuclear strike instead. My guess: the visit would have irked him greatly.(Dad always liked the word “irk.”)
It is also easy for me to imagine cynical reasons for Obama’s visit, such as bolstering the weak arguments for his reckless and irresponsible Iran deal. The theme of his gesture was to “spread peace and pursue a world without nuclear weapons,” as he wrote in the memorial’s guest book, and as he said in his speech, “…to ponder the terrible force unleashed in the not so distant past. Amongst those nations like my own that own nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.”
That’s nice. It’s also obtuse, naive and dangerous….and typical of Obama, who leads according to how he would like the world to be, and not as it has been and always will be. The only reason the ceremony was in Hiroshima and not the rubble of what was once New York, Chicago or Washington is because Japan and Germany didn’t get the bomb before we did. It was close, though. When the United States disarms itself as Obama wants, that will be the cue for Armageddon. I suppose after Iran reduces Israel to a giant radioactive parking lot, that may become more apparent, so there is a chilling sort of hope.
That little problem aside, the President’s rhetoric did not, as some feared it would, let Japan escape the accountability its deserved when the bomb dropped and still deserves now.