6 years ago, on the 65th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima, I wrote:
No sitting Japanese prime minister has ever been to Pearl Harbor; and no sitting American president has ever been to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Will President Obama be the first?
6 years later, we have our answer.
Tom Collina at Foreign Policy:
President Barack Obama will soon become the first sitting U.S. president to go to Hiroshima, the White House announced on Tuesday. Obama will go on May 27, just after the G-7 summit, to visit the historic city where the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945. Three days later, the United States dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki. All told, more than 200,000 people perished, mostly civilians.
Secretary of State John Kerry visited Hiroshima on April 11, the first of his rank to do so, in part to test the waters for Obama. “Everyone in the world should see and feel the power of this memorial,” Kerry wrote in a guest book after touring the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.
The president’s visit is almost as controversial as the bombing itself. Ten presidents before Obama have avoided a trip that raises uncomfortable questions. Was the U.S. action justified? Were there alternatives? Should the United States apologize?
One has to take into account the context of the times in which the decision was made.
Yes, the president should go. Not to look back, but to look forward to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again. “This isn’t about questioning America’s responsibility for using nuclear weapons,” Tomihisa Taue, the mayor of Nagasaki, recently said. “It’s important to think about how to rid nuclear weapons from the world.”
As Obama’s tenure comes to a close, this may be one of his last opportunities to deliver a major policy speech on nuclear weapons — one of his signature issues.
Reagan also had a desire to rid the world of nuclear weapons; but his approach was much different.
Has President Obama made nuclear war more likely or less likely, thanks to his tenure as PotUS? In light of his Iran Deal?
As Ben Rhodes, the White House’s deputy national security advisor, explained on Medium, the president’s trip “will reaffirm America’s longstanding commitment — and the President’s personal commitment — to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
As Lester Tenney wrote in the WSJ:
What Hiroshima represents is more than the effects of a nuclear weapon. It is the culmination of a war started by Imperial Japan and conducted with gross inhumanity, a war in which more civilians died than combatants.
It would be wrong for the president to pivot away from this history and use his visit solely to discuss aspirations for a world without nuclear weapons. Hiroshima highlights mankind’s tragic ability to wreak terrible destruction, and this destruction was not caused exclusively by atomic bombs. Sand-filled bamboo sticks, bayonets, plague-inflected fleas, starvation and rape—methods of warfare used by Japan—are also destructive.
Mr. Obama wants to use his visit to Hiroshima to highlight the perils of nuclear war. But this is not the only lesson. Our service as veterans of the Pacific War needs to be remembered and not abandoned to some tumid oratory. The president’s visit to Hiroshima will be hollow, a gesture without motion, if the Pacific War’s full history is not maintained. Hiroshima does not and cannot exist outside the context of the Asia-Pacific War and all its dead.
So what should the PotUS say, since he has gone there to speak? WaPo’s Adam Taylor seems to think America should apologize for a great many sins and offers up a short list.
Do the Japanese even think that an apology is even owed it? Apparently 80% of Hiroshima survivors are not. President Obama stated he is not there on an apology tour.
What are your FA top 10 suggestions for President Obama to say to Japan and to the rest of the world?
10) “Let me be clear: War is hell. Get over it.”
9) “You’re welcome.”
8) “Got any pizza or sushi?”
7) “What’s up with those Japanese game shows?”
6) “The toilets here are an engineering marvel!”
5) “Trump, Hillary, or Bernie-san?”
4) “You people are kind of…you know…strange? But we love it!”
3) Yellow lives matter
A former fetus, the “wordsmith from nantucket” was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1968. Adopted at birth, wordsmith grew up a military brat. He achieved his B.A. in English from the University of California, Los Angeles (graduating in the top 97% of his class), where he also competed rings for the UCLA mens gymnastics team. The events of 9/11 woke him from his political slumber and malaise. Currently a personal trainer and gymnastics coach.
The wordsmith has never been to Nantucket.
The choice to use atomic weapons on Hiroshima saved Japanese lives and ended World War II!!
“You’ve really cleaned the place up!”
And you can keep your plan and your doctor no matter what.
You were warned.
Why did anyone stay?
Nagasaki’s leaflet read in Japanese:
@Nanny G: Yep. Comment #11.
Anymore quickie jobs for the wrecking crew?
“Talk about shovel ready!”
“Mess with the bull, you get the horn.”
Nuclear war IS devastating and the effects in Hiroshima and Nagasaki hardly do justice to what a modern weapon would do. Rather than bemoaning the possession of these weapons, why not point out the destruction as a warning to those who fee the US hasn’t the resolve or resources to resist a prolonged conflict? That is, after all, what they are for; deterrence.
He’ll probably bow to the Emperor and his wife again, as is customary in Japan, simultaneously pissing off U.S. conservatives, as is customary here.
Unless, of course, he wishes to deliberately offend 127 million Japanese people, who for the most part still place great importance on tradition, decorum, and etiquette.
the idiot’s bow was outrageous and humiliating to Japan, much less America. 7.5 years and the idiot has no concept of international protocol. He continues to kiss the Arab’s ass with his illiterate bow and persists in Japan. where is a vaudeville hook when America needs it the most. idiot is an embarrassment to this country. Maybe he needs to review the most recent clip on America by Charlie Daniels.
Actually, he is well versed in protocol—which differs markedly from nation to nation—but doesn’t give a rat’s ass what the political right thinks.
In Japan, failure to bow to the Emperor lessens the stature of the person who doesn’t follow the custom. It demonstrates that you are either inexcusably rude, full of yourself, or ignorant. In Japan, you bow to the Emperor. In England, you bow to the Queen. In Saudi Arabia, you bow to the King. It’s a sign of respect for a national symbol, nothing more.
A President of the United States is a more powerful person in reality than all the heredity symbolic heads of state put together. The Emperor has little real power in the 21st Century. It’s not necessary to demonstrate that by being rude. Only in the mind of the right does a symbolic bow suggest subservience. In the minds of 127 million Japanese, it wins respect.
While I had no problem with and thought it proper to apologize for the actions of a US soldier that resulted in the death of a Japanese girl, I have to wonder why he has yet to address the US citizens that are murdered by the illegal immigrants he encourages, supports and the sanctuary cities he condones. It seems the lives of non-Americans are far more important to Obama than the lives of citizens.
You just noticed that?
It is obvious that you are not schooled in diplomacy. the idiot’s bow was too low.
How one properly bows in Japan depends upon the circumstances. Tradition dictates that the Emperor of Japan gets more than a polite bow. He gets a saikeirei, a low bow, rather than the usual eshaku or more respectful but still usual futsuurei or keirei. A proper bow made to the Emperor is lower than to anyone else. Emperor Akihito is only 5’5″. It makes for a low bow.
The American Flag and the American President bow to no man or foreign potentate-especially one who heads a country that started a brutal murderous war that WE ended.
That war ended over 70 years ago. The nation of Japan has become a good friend. A traditional bow to a symbolic head of state costs us nothing. Rudeness, on the other hand, could have a price. Unlike Donald Trump, the current President of the United States understands this.
Perhaps Obama’s ego is not as over-inflated as his critics like to claim. Obviously they don’t recognize an actual example of a narcissist when they see one—e.g. Donald Trump, who demonstrates the trait every time he opens his mouth.
I disagree on that one-the obozo is one of the most self centered presidents we have ever had-and that’s in an ego driven field. Japan may be a friend now but it took killing a hell of a lot of them to get there. The current (and thank God soon to be gone) fool in the White House has no understanding of the world beyond what franklin marshall davis taught him. You ought want to go back to your buddies in the progressive movement and find someone who gives a damn what you think!
If you’re so concerned about the truth of Japan’s status as our nation’s long-term friend, why aren’t you concerned about Trump’s repeated suggestion that Japan should acquire it’s own nuclear weapons? They could do that in very short order, any time they decided to. Trump has suggested the same with regard to South Korea.
The man is clueless.
@Greg: Aww is it only those that chant death to America that should have the Nukes, right up the liberal line of thinking.
@Greg: You don’t know anything about Japanese etiquette beyond what you just read on Wikipedia.
Why bother responding?
Trump already won the Presidency. Get over it.
You don’t know what I might know. More to the point, you don’t know what Trump doesn’t know, which would seem to be a helluva lot.
Bowing to each other is a classic Japanese custom. Bowing to Saudi kings unilaterally is a sign of obeisance and submission. “Islam” if you will.
The (late) 4-star USAF General, Curtis Lemay was correct …. “If you kill enough of them, they WILL stop fighting” …. Frank K . (N.Va.)
@Greg: Greggie, did Slick, Carter, or Johnson bow??
Bush the First threw up on the Japanese Prime Minister, Miyazawa Kiichi. Anything following that has got to be viewed as an improvement.