There’s been quite a bit of speculation about what President Obama will say when he visits Hiroshima next week. Some say they think that the president should apologize. This report from ABC News should provide a taste:
A group representing Japanese survivors of U.S. atomic bombings urged President Barack Obama to hear their stories and apologize when he visits Hiroshima next week.
Two leaders of the Tokyo-based nationwide group told a news conference Thursday that many survivors still want an apology, though they have long avoided an outright demand for one out of fear that it would be counterproductive.
Toshiki Fujimori, a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing, said he found it awkward to hear local and central government officials say they are not asking for an apology.
“I suspect there was a pressure (not to seek an apology) to create an atmosphere that would make it easier for Obama to visit Hiroshima,” Fujimori said, declining to identify where the pressure was coming from. “But many of the survivors don’t think they can do without an apology at all.”
Apologize for what? For saving the lives of millions of Japanese? That’s how many would have been killed in the invasion for which the Japanese were preparing. Not to mention the tens or even hundreds of thousands of Americans who would have been killed.
For many years I thought that our use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been a ghastly mistake. Then I applied what I knew of the Japanese culture of the time and realized that we had, literally, no other way to communicate to the Japanese that the war was over and they had lost. Only the emperor could have told the Japanese people that and the only way of communicating that reality to the emperor was through demonstrations so graphic and awful they could not be denied.
James Gibney, writing at Bloomberg, arrives at the same conclusion:
After reading this book, though, I found it hard to argue with what Yamashita told me: “Had the bombs not been dropped, and had the Allies invaded as they were planning to, it would have been horrible beyond belief.” The numbers support him: As many as 150,000 civilians may have perished in the battle for Okinawa alone, for instance. Never mind the Allied servicemen who might have died — including perhaps my father, a battlefield interrogator in U.S. naval intelligence who went on to join a cadre of postwar Japanologists. Spare a thought for the Japanese boys and girls training to throw themselves under advancing U.S. tanks with bombs strapped to their chests.
I would hope that whatever the president says on his visit, he fixes his gaze upon the future rather than dwelling on the past. Reflexion and mourning are fine. But no apologies.
Here’s Harry Truman’s statement after the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki:
The British, Chinese, and United States Governments have given the Japanese people adequate warning of what is in store for them. We have laid down the general terms on which they can surrender. Our warning went unheeded; our terms were rejected. Since then the Japanese have seen what our atomic bomb can do. They can foresee what it will do in the future.
The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians. But that attack is only a warning of things to come. If Japan does not surrender, bombs will have to be dropped on her war industries and, unfortunately, thousands of civilian lives will be lost. I urge Japanese civilians to leave industrial cities immediately, and save themselves from destruction.
I realize the tragic significance of the atomic bomb.
Its production and its use were not lightly undertaken by this Government. But we knew that our enemies were on the search for it. We know now how close they were to finding it. And we knew the disaster which would come to this Nation, and to all peace-loving nations, to all civilization, if they had found it first.
That is why we felt compelled to undertake the long and uncertain and costly labor of discovery and production.
We won the race of discovery against the Germans.
Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare. We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.
We shall continue to use it until we completely destroy Japan’s power to make war. Only a Japanese surrender will stop us.
Let’s have no more talk of apologies.