Obama’s implicit apology.
Mr. Obama told the world on Friday in Hiroshima that the American decision to drop nuclear bombs on Japan in 1945 arose from humanity’s worst instincts, including “nationalist fervor or religious zeal.” He did it coming up on Memorial weekend when we honor our military who died – who sacrificed everything.
On Friday, over and over, each media outlet echoed the refrain that Mr. Obama did not bow (that we saw) or apologize at Hiroshima, however, his very presence at the site was an inherent apology.
The Japanese of 1941 caused death and destruction to our military stationed in Pearl Harbor and dragged us into a devastating war we did not start in which over 60 million people and about 300,000 US soldiers were killed, but it is Truman’s use of the bomb that requires a “moral revolution” in his mind.
Under the guise of wanting to rid the earth of the very weapons that finally ended the war that the Japanese of 1945 refused to end, Obama talked of the “terrible force we unleashed and the 100,000 Japanese we killed. He spoke of “who we are and what we might become,” seemingly referencing all people but he was at Hiroshima.
In December, 2011, Barack Obama visited Pearl Harbor for the 70th anniversary. He laid a wreath and made no statement whatsoever. Previously, he had issued a humdrum statement which read, “we salute the veterans and survivors of Pearl Harbor who inspire us still. Despite overwhelming odds, they fought back heroically, inspiring our nation and putting us on the path to victory.”
Kerry gave a quasi-apology when he visited Hiroshima last month. He said, “It is a stunning display. It is a gut-wrenching display. It tugs at all of your sensibilities as a human being. It reminds everybody of the extraordinary complexity of choices in war and of what war does to people to communities, to countries, to the world.”
U.S. Secretary of State and traitor John Kerry laid a wreath at the USS Arizona memorial site in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on August 13, 2014 after a briefing. We couldn’t find any statement. He did issue a statement a year later which did not include the words, “stunning”, “gut-wrenching”, or “choices of war”. Read it here.
Some agree Obama apologized at Hiroshima. For atomic-bomb survivor Eiji Hattori, Obama’s remarks were exactly that.
“I think it was an apology,” said Hattori, 73, who was a toddler at the time of the bombing and now suffers from three types of cancer.
“I didn’t think he’d go that far and say so much. I feel I’ve been saved somewhat … For me, it was more than enough.”
The cruelty and the war crimes came from the Japanese who routinely violated the conventions of war.
Lester Tenney saw Japanese soldiers killing fellow American captives on the infamous Bataan Death March in the Philippines in 1942. “If you didn’t walk fast enough, you were killed. If you didn’t say the right words you were killed, and if you were killed, you were either shot to death, bayonetted, or decapitated,” the 95-year-old veteran said. He still has the bamboo stick Japanese soldiers used to beat him across the face.
That is only one of many stories.
The Japanese and their Emperor were the perpetrators and they were willing to let another million die. They are responsible, not the US. Someone needs to tell Barack Obama.
Barack Obama described the terrible force [we] unleashed that changed the world and to mourn the Japanese dead.
Seventy-one years ago, on a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed. A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself.
Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not-so-distant past. We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner.
Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.
It is not the fact of war that sets Hiroshima apart. Artifacts tell us that violent conflict appeared with the very first man. Our early ancestors having learned to make blades from flint and spears from wood used these tools not just for hunting but against their own kind. On every continent, the history of civilization is filled with war, whether driven by scarcity of grain or hunger for gold, compelled by nationalist fervor or religious zeal. Empires have risen and fallen. Peoples have been subjugated and liberated. And at each juncture, innocents have suffered, a countless toll, their names forgotten by time.
The world war that reached its brutal end in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was fought among the wealthiest and most powerful of nations. Their civilizations had given the world great cities and magnificent art. Their thinkers had advanced ideas of justice and harmony and truth. And yet the war grew out of the same base instinct for domination or conquest that had caused conflicts among the simplest tribes, an old pattern amplified by new capabilities and without new constraints.
In the span of a few years, some 60 million people would die. Men, women, children, no different than us. Shot, beaten, marched, bombed, jailed, starved, gassed to death. There are many sites around the world that chronicle this war, memorials that tell stories of courage and heroism, graves and empty camps that echo of unspeakable depravity.
He spoke of the “capacity for unmatched destruction” and since we dropped the bombs, to whom is he referring?
Yet in the image of a mushroom cloud that rose into these skies, we are most starkly reminded of humanity’s core contradiction. How the very spark that marks us as a species, our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our toolmaking, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will — those very things also give us the capacity for unmatched destruction.
Then he said we learn to “justify violence” for a “higher cause”, an indirect reference to the bomb and our reasons for doing it.
How often does material advancement or social innovation blind us to this truth? How easily we learn to justify violence in the name of some higher cause.
Every great religion promises a pathway to love and peace and righteousness, and yet no religion has been spared from believers who have claimed their faith as a license to kill.
Nations arise telling a story that binds people together in sacrifice and cooperation, allowing for remarkable feats. But those same stories have so often been used to oppress and dehumanize those who are different.
Science allows us to communicate across the seas and fly above the clouds, to cure disease and understand the cosmos, but those same discoveries can be turned into ever more efficient killing machines.
What have we learned from Hiroshima? We need a ‘moral revolution’ – we. It’s why he was there.
The wars of the modern age teach us this truth. Hiroshima teaches this truth. Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well.
That is why we come to this place. We stand here in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell. We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry. We remember all the innocents killed across the arc of that terrible war and the wars that came before and the wars that would follow.
Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering. But we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.
Some day, the voices of the hibakusha will no longer be with us to bear witness. But the memory of the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, must never fade. That memory allows us to fight complacency. It fuels our moral imagination. It allows us to change.
The remainder of his speech can be read at The New York Times.
Barack Obama has had the poorest record of reducing nuclear stockpiles in recent times, in small part due to resistance from Congress to the Kremlin but mostly due to his ineffectiveness on anything but fundamentally transforming us into a full-blown socialist nation.