“U.S. President Barack Obama said on Sunday his visit to Hiroshima, the first city to suffer an atomic bombing, would emphasize friendly ties between former enemies, and reiterated he would not apologize for the devastating attack.” -Elaine Lies, Reuters
President Obama will be the first sitting president ever to visit the city of Hiroshima, one of the two cities hit with nuclear bombs during World War II. I believe Obama’s visit to the city is an important step forward in healing a bitter chapter in history between the two countries. Going to Hiroshima without apologizing for, what many would argue as futile is a mistake and one the president should reconsider.
“It’s important to recognize that in the midst of war, leaders make all kinds of decisions, it’s a job of historians to ask questions and examine them,” Obama said.
“But I know, as somebody who’s now sat in this position for the last seven and half years, that every leader makes very difficult decisions, particularly during wartime.”
-Elaine Lies, Reuters
It is important to remember that the atomic bombs were not used to save the US from launching a invasion of mainland Japan. Japan had already been on the brink of collapse due to the massive fire bombings that had killed hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed many square miles of Tokyo and other Japanese cities. Japan essentially had no oil, very little food, no manufacturing capabilities, and no means to defend itself to the American Air force raids. Rather, the nukes were a way for Truman to send a message to the Soviet Union. The matter of the fact is Japan had already been looking for a way to surrender for months prior to the use of the Atomic bombs. The terms that were penned in the actual document were nearly identical to ones that Japan had been purposing. The Japanese were only asking that their emperor remain untouched. The emperor ended up playing a significant role in validating the surrender and transitioning Japan into it’s new government. The dropping of the atomic bombs wasn’t needed to end the war and resulted in the deaths of over a hundred thousand people.
I encourage all my readers to read this piece from the Institute for History Review that has an in-depth look at why the atomic bombs weren’t needed and how the idea that using them ended the war is essentially years of culminated propaganda. If you don’t have time for the whole piece here is a clip:
After studying this matter in great detail, the United States Strategic Bombing Survey rejected the notion that Japan gave up because of the atomic bombings. In its authoritative 1946 report, the Survey concluded:
The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs did not defeat Japan, nor by the testimony of the enemy leaders who ended the war did they persuade Japan to accept unconditional surrender. The Emperor, the Lord Privy Seal, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and the Navy Minister had decided as early as May of 1945 that the war should be ended even if it meant acceptance of defeat on allied terms …
The mission of the Suzuki government, appointed 7 April 1945, was to make peace. An appearance of negotiating for terms less onerous than unconditional surrender was maintained in order to contain the military and bureaucratic elements still determined on a final Bushido defense, and perhaps even more importantly to obtain freedom to create peace with a minimum of personal danger and internal obstruction. It seems clear, however, that in extremis the peacemakers would have peace, and peace on any terms. This was the gist of advice given to Hirohito by the Jushin in February, the declared conclusion of Kido in April, the underlying reason for Koiso’s fall in April, the specific injunction of the Emperor to Suzuki on becoming premier which was known to all members of his cabinet …
Negotiations for Russia to intercede began the forepart of May 1945 in both Tokyo and Moscow. Konoye, the intended emissary to the Soviets, stated to the Survey that while ostensibly he was to negotiate, he received direct and secret instructions from the Emperor to secure peace at any price, notwithstanding its severity …
It seems clear … that air supremacy and its later exploitation over Japan proper was the major factor which determined the timing of Japan’s surrender and obviated any need for invasion.
Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945 and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945 [the date of the planned American invasion], Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.
I understand that many people probably still feel that the atomic bombs were used in retaliation for Pearl Harbor. However, hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens were killed in the endless raids and fire bombings of major cities and their military was already defeated. From a moral stand point do you believe these innocent people deserved to die because of a decision that their government made to attack America? I don’t think there is a morally high position one can take for killing so many of those people. Even if there is a way to possibly argue that Truman and company made the decision fully believing that there was no other way to end the war without risking American lives, there is no harm in acknowledging that it was the wrong decision, knowingly or unknowingly.
I feel that it is imperative that a nations leaders accept the past mistakes that nation undertook, even if they had no role in the decisions made. Acknowledging our mistakes is a way for us to accept the imperfect history of our nation and give some closure to those that were and continue to be effected by the decisions are country made not that long ago. We should point out that yes, leaders around the world make hard decisions that sometimes come to be poor choices. Acknowledging this poor choices makes us a better nation, not only showing are sorrow for those effected by our choices but for showing them we can also learn from our mistakes and accept our past. In many ways, Obama should follow the path of Justin Trudeau who recently apologized for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident in which Canada rejected 355 Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu refugees from entering the country. Our president would do a great deal of service to the people that died that day, the people who still live in Hiroshima, the family members of those lost, and to our nation by apologizing for our country’s mistake and address the false notion that these bombs were actually used as a force for good.