Obama Should Have Given in Hiroshima
Barack Obama became the first U.S. President to
visit Hiroshima on Friday, more than seven decades
after the U.S. B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped a
10,000-pound atomic bomb nicknamed "Little Boy" on
the city whose military value was far less than that
of Tampa to the United States. More than 70,000
people were instantly killed, and virtually the
entire city was flattened. Many survivors would
suffer prolonged and unimaginably painful
aftereffects of radiation, which would cost at least
100,000 more people their lives. The effects of
radiation would harm people for years and decades
after the initial explosion.
Obama stood at a podium with the epicenter of the
blast, the Genbaku Domu, in the background and said
that he had "come to mourn the dead." While Obama
mourned, there was one thing he did not do:
said that "death came from the sky." No mention
of why. Or who was responsible, as if it were a
natural disaster rather than a crime perpetrated by
actual people. Obama was either unwilling or unable
to confront the truth and make amends.
Here's what he could have said to try to do so:
May 28, 2016 "Information
Seventy-one years ago, on a bright
cloudless morning, an American warplane unleashed
the most horrific and inhuman weapon ever invented,
immediately imperiling the survival of the entire
human species. This act of terrorism was the
ultimate crime: a crime of mass murder, a crime of
war, and a crime against humanity.
The victims, those who died incinerated in a flash,
and those who died slowly and painfully over years
from chemical poisoning, were never able to see
justice served. Sadly, there is no way the criminals
who carried out this heinous and barbaric act will
ever face justice for their crimes.
I cannot change that. But, there is one thing I can
do as the leader of the nation in whose name the
bombing of Hiroshima was carried out: I can tell
you, residents of Hiroshima and the rest of Japan,
that I am sorry. I am sorry on behalf of my
government and my country. I wish an American
President would have come earlier and said this.
This apology is decades overdue. It is a small and
symbolic act, but it is necessary as a first step
for true reconciliation.
A nuclear bomb should have never been dropped on
Hiroshima. The most important goal of mankind should
be to ensure that no nuclear bomb is ever dropped
again. Anywhere in the world. Ever.
It would be easy to stand here and tell you that
there are reasons why the American military and
political officials chose to use a nuclear bomb. I
could say it served a greater good of saving lives
that would have been lost if the war had continued.
I could say it was a decision made by people who
were dealing with the pressure and horrors of
fighting a war. But that would not be the truth.
Those would be empty rationalizations. There is no
justification for the bomb. Period.
The truth is that by August 6, 1945 Japan was
defeated and had been seeking a conditional
surrender for months. And American war planners knew
this. They knew it because they had cracked the
Japanese code and were intercepting their messages.
Japan was willing to surrender under the condition
that their Emperor, who was seen as a God among the
Japanese people, be allowed to maintain his throne
and not be prosecuted for war crimes. The Emperor
himself called for "a plan to end the war" six weeks
before the fateful day.  After so much
unspeakable death and destruction, this reasonable
offer should have been met with ecstatic celebration
Instead, U.S. officials disregarded it. They decided
that it was necessary not just to defeat Japan, but
to leave them utterly humiliated and disgraced. They
wanted to demonstrate to their public that they
could force another country to lay prostrate in
front of them in complete submission. This is the
mindset of terrorists, torturers, and sadists.
The United States joined with China and Great
Britain to issue the
Potsdam Declaration on July 26, in which they
called on Japan "to proclaim now the unconditional
surrender of all Japanese armed forces." These were
terms they understood Japan could not accept.
Unfortunately, the use of the atomic bomb had become
inevitable after the massive investment of time and
treasure represented by the Manhattan Project.
Military planners worried about "the possibility
that after spending huge amounts of money ... the
bomb would be a dud. They could easily imagine being
grilled mercilessly by hostile members of Congress."
Historian and former Nuclear Regulatory Commission
J. Samuel Walker confirmed that aside from
"shortening the war and saving American lives,
Truman wanted to justify the expense and effort
required to build the atomic bombs."
That financial considerations and a self-interested
desire for bureaucrats to validate themselves and
protect their careers could lead to the single most
destructive and cruel act in history is an
abomination. It is a deep offense to the idea that
people are innately moral, and it makes us ask how
in a democratic society we can vest people with the
authority to make decisions of such profound impact
secretly and without accountability?
Walker notes that another consideration for using
the bomb on Hiroshima was to put fear into the
leaders of the Soviet Union and make them "more
amenable to American wishes." Just six weeks earlier
the UN Charter had been established. It included the
demand that "all members shall refrain in their
international relations from the threat or use of
force" against other states. The drafters could of
the treaty could never have imagined such an
unconscionable violation of their words so soon
after the monumental pact had been written.
As horrific as the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima was,
it did not occur in a vacuum. What no one in
mainstream American political discourse has so far
been able to admit is that not only was there no
justification for the bomb, there was little
justification for the war against Japan in the first
The war was the result of the notion, which first
emanated from the Council on Foreign Relations in
1941, that the U.S.'s "national interest" called for
a "Grand Area" that consisted of the Western
hemisphere, the British Empire and the Far East,
while assuming the majority of Europe would be
controlled by Nazi Germany. This was translated into
a policy that demanded a military confrontation with
Japan for control of the Far East. 
A pillar in this policy was an economic embargo
against Japan. Cut off from imports and raw
materials from the United States and Great Britain,
Japan grew desperate and subsequently sought to
expand its Empire. Japan saw itself in need of a
sphere of influence involving the same areas in the
Far East as the United States.
The U.S. had several options to avoid war. For one,
they could develop a program of agricultural and
economic self-sufficiency which would allow them to
insulate themselves from dependence on colonial
powers, as well as allow them to steer clear of
unpredictable and potentially hostile regions of the
But for businessmen who wanted to maintain control
over the direction of the economy and keep their own
fortunes growing at a limitless pace, this was a
nonstarter. Instead, they were dedicated to
challenging Japan. Hence, the embargo and the
buildup for an inevitable military confrontation
over Eastern Asia.
This is the background to Pearl Harbor. Japan was
obviously not justified for attacking sovereign
American territory in a blatant act of aggression.
But we cannot pretend that it was not predictable or
logical from their point of view.
Japan felt itself backed into a corner by the
embargo. They felt they needed to expand further
into Asia. They believed that if they did so, the
U.S. military would have attacked them. They were
Both countries should have worked together to
recognize each other's perceived interests,
deescalate, and achieve a mutually acceptable
compromise. It is the ability to understand one's
perceived adversary as a rational counterpart,
rather than an evil and irrational enemy, that
separates humans from beasts. If we are not able to
use this ability, we are no better than a predator
seeking his prey.
The nuclear bombing of Hiroshima did not need to
happen. But the bombing that took place on this site
was just a symptom of the war it was part of. War
will necessarily produce horrific crimes, some of
which are unimaginable at the time they happen. As
horrific as the nuclear bomb was, 70 years of
technological advancements have made not just the
destruction of an entire city, but of an entire
country or continent within the realm of
We need to eliminate nuclear weapons from the earth.
But that is not enough. Chemical weapons like
napalm, Agent Orange, depleted uranium, and white
phosphorous; biological weapons like Dengue bacteria
and germ bombs; and conventional weapons like
cluster bombs, pineapple bomblets, butterfly bombs
and land mines are just some of the savage weapons
used by the U.S. military alone in the years since
the close of World War II to kill and maim millions
of people. Many other countries possess similar
weapons of mass destruction and have the capacity to
do the same.
We need to eliminate war. All war. Forever. War is
evil, plain and simple. We cannot undo the actions
of the past. But we can let them guide us to a
better world where we don't repeat the horrors that
the people of Hiroshima suffered here 71 years ago.
That will be the only way to prevent the victims
from having died in vain.
 Zinn, Howard.
History of the United States: 1492-Present.
New York: HarperCollins, 2003. pp. 423.
 U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey: The Effects of
the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, June
19, 1946. President's Secretary's File, Truman
Laurence H. and William Minter.
Imperial Brain Trust: The Council on
Foreign Relations & United States Foreign Policy.
Lincoln, NE: Authors Choice Press, 2004.
Matt Peppe writes
about politics, U.S. foreign policy and Latin
America on his blog.
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