The Hiroshima Speech I'd Like To Hear (Don't Hold Your Breath)

August 6th marked the 65th anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan in which anywhere from 75,000 to 100,000 plus were killed either from the blast itself or the radiation in its aftermath.

What makes this milestone different is that for the first time, the US ambassador to Japan, John Roos, accepted the annual invitation to attend the commemoration ceremonies in that city. In the past our representative there has always declined. But this year is different. This is the age of the Obama Confessoria Americana and it only makes sense that our ambassador be on hand so that America can be dutifully reminded of the peaceful civilians we incinerated, the context of which continues to be ignored by the Japanese, and left-leaning historians and/or commentators.

The State Dept. claims that the purpose of Roos’ attendance was “to express respect for all the victims of World War II.” The bestowing of a moral equivalence upon the citizenry of Japan (whose nation launched the orgy of mayhem) to say, that of China or the Philippines (who were on the receiving end of the Japanese bayonets) seems implicit here. More so, some could read our ambassador’s presence after so many years of deliberate absences as an apology of sorts and as such, it flies in the face of both the history of the Pacific War and the roles played by Japan and the USA in that horrific conflict.

But this latest mea culpa on the part of the current administration should come as no surprise. After all, there was another occurrence during Obama’s November 2009 visit to Japan that I found both revealing and disconcerting. It occurred during a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama. At one point a reporter from Fuji Television asked Obama this question:

Q: “And to President Obama, you are a proponent of a nuclear-free world, and you’ve stated, first of all, you would like to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki while in office. Do you have this desire? And what is your understanding of the historical meaning of the A-bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Do you think that it was the right decision?”

Obama at first spun off on a bit of a rambling tangent reciting such political safe-speak about the need for ridding the world of nuclear weapons and joint initiative, etc. and so on. Then he went on to say:

POTUS: “Now, obviously Japan has unique perspective on the issue of nuclear weapons as a consequence of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And that I’m sure helps to motivate the Prime Minister’s deep interest in this issue. I certainly would be honored, it would be meaningful for me to visit those two cities in the future. I don’t have immediate travel plans, but it’s something that would be meaningful to me. You had one more question, and I’m not sure I remember it. Was it North Korea?”

Q:”Whether or not you believe that the U.S. dropped a nuclear weapon on Hiroshima and Nagasaki — it was right?”

POTUS:”No, there were three sets of questions, right? You asked about North Korea?”

I must say I was a perplexed that Obama seemed genuinely surprised by that question as he himself has raised the subject of the atomic bombs several times while on foreign trips. To not expect such an inquirey in the very nation upon which they were deployed is a puzzling oversight no doubt (and perhaps a harbinger of the incompetence to follow, but I digress). And he should have had an answer ready; one that defended the USA, while making it clear that it was an act of necessity, not vengeance or bloodlust.

The President’s opportunity to defend his nation then came and went that day. But I would have liked Ambassador Roos to at least make a statement before or after the ceremony to remind both the Japanese and ourselves of the context of Hiroshima…and also prompt Japan to once and for all embrace a more reflective and honest interpretation of their own history. That it was not a war of American agression in which Pearl Harbor was an act of self-defense. Rather that from 1938 to 1945 the Japanese military (with civilian suppory) went on a sadistic and racially justified rampage of conquest, plunder, mass-murder, gang rape and torture from Shanghai to Nanking, to Manila and the outer reaches of the Pacific rim. That was, until the USA and her British Commonwealth Allies put an end to the bloodshed.

Here, then, is a speech that I would like to hear, but you will never get from a member of this administration:

“The president has thought long and hard about this question. After all it he works in the very office in which the decision was made to drop the bombs.

“We have an expression in our country that says ‘hind-sight is 20/20.’ Meaning that it is much easier to assess events after time has passed and come to a conclusion as to what should and should not have been done. It is even more complicated and presumptuous to second-guess commanders’ decisions in times of war. And the fact is that the United States was in its fourth year of a long and ever more savage and bloody world war. 300,000 Americans had already died, and many times that were coming back from Europe and the Pacific maimed and hobbled. Nazi Germany had been defeated, but Japan seemed far from ready to capitulate. The battle for island of Okinawa, the last major battle of the Pacific War, had been the bloodiest contest yet, costing the lives of over ten thousand Americans and over one hundred thousand Japanese, civilian as well as military. By August 1945, ninety percent of Japan’s cities were in ruins, and over million of its citizens dead, and yet the Japanese militarist leaders showed little compunction to surrender.

“It was estimated that the planned invasion of Japan, scheduled for late 1945, would have cost over a million Allied lives and possibly tens of millions of Japanese lives. Entire generations wiped out. You, me, perhaps many attending this ceremony may not have been here had our grandparents been condemned to the slaughter. Faced with this grim prospect, our then president, Harry Truman, was shown a way to possibly avoid all of this. In the diabolical mathematics of war, it is often necessary to sacrifice the lives of thousands to save millions. War is by its very nature cruel, inhuman, grotesque, obscene. (No one should know that better than the Japanese soldiers who inflicted such undeserved suffering on so many.) But to prolong that war, to not end it as expeditiously as possible, would have been even more immoral.

“Today, comfortable in our living rooms and six and a half decades removed from the ravages of a world war, we can argue whether or not there was another path. In 2010, free from the emotions, the gold stars on the windows, and the lack of information about the deliberations within the Japanese circles of power available today, it is tempting to question those decisions made in the summer of 1945.

“We can also ask would the nuclear genie have been let out of the bottle eventually anyway? Or would, in the meantime, a conventional Third World War have erupted between East and West but for the nuclear deterrent that held our forces mutually at bay and ironically saved millions more? I cannot answer that. No one can. Still, it is clear that our current issues we have with Iran, North Korea and proliferation can trace their roots back to the bomb bay of the Enola Gay. And so those are the matters we must confront now. Historians, therefore may debate the question ad infinitum.

“As for this president, if he knew what President Truman knew, and saw what he saw, he would have done the same. As the only nation to use nuclear weapons in battle, The United States of America, my country, certainly has something to reflect upon…but nothing to apologize for.”

When will the president realize that standing up for the nation he leads when it is warranted is not the same as being a bullying cowboy? It is serious diplomacy and a sign of strength. One he needs more than he may even realize.


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