On President Obama’s Visit to Hiroshima

On 6 August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, and three days later, 9 August, the U.S. dropped yet another atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki.  The immediate death toll from these two bombings was estimated at over 100,000 people, with at least that many dying within the four months following the bombings. Less than a week later, 15 August, Japan surrendered, marking the end of World War II.  The official death toll from the two bombings was 210,000, though it will never be fully known how many died from later effects of the bombings.bomb2

During the past 70 years, there has been much debate about whether bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was ‘the right thing to do’, bringing the war to a close and thus saving countless lives, or whether it was an act of inhumanity.  Those who supported the decision to drop the bombs claimed that in doing so, we were actually saving lives.  Then President Harry S. Truman, in his 1955 memoirs claims that “the atomic bomb probably saved half a million U.S. lives.”  Henry Stimson, then Secretary of War, claimed the bombings had saved one million U.S. casualties, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill also estimated the acts had saved one million U.S. and a half-million British casualties.  Maybe, but we will never know.  It is not my intent here to re-hash this debate, but briefly, my thoughts are that it was a horrific act that took far too many lives, almost all civilians.  In claiming that these bombings saved U.S. lives, it appears there is a certain arrogance, an assumption that U.S. lives have more value than Japanese lives.  I suspect the estimates that a million or more lives would have been lost had the war continued is a bloated estimate, one that is intended to serve as justification, to relieve our collective consciences.  While I am certain that the decision to drop the bombs was not made lightly, I do think there were other options and I wish, some 70 years later, that those options had been pursued.  Enough said.

hugThis week, President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to visit Hiroshima.  I, for one, felt great pride in our president as I saw him hugging Shigeaki Mori, 79, a survivor who was but a child when the bomb fell on his city.  Obama’s speech was poignant:

“Seventy-one years ago on a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed. Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder the terrible force unleashed in the not-so-distant past. We come to mourn the dead including over 100,000 Japanese men women and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner.”

In the guest book at the memorial site, Obama wrote: “We have known the agony of war. Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons.”

As with nearly every single act President Obama has performed during his nearly eight years in office, there just had to be those who criticized.  I fail to understand the criticism.  President Obama did not offer an apology for the decision by his predecessor, but merely offered empathy, compassion, and a commitment to strive for a more peaceful world, one without nuclear weapons.  There is absolutely nothing to object to in this, and it is, in my opinion, an act of class, one that should have been done long ago.

American veteran’s groups had urged President Obama not to visit Hiroshima until the Japanese apologize for the wartime treatment of American prisoners of war, thousands of whom died of abuse and starvation in Japanese prison camps.  Others claim that even though the president did not tender an apology, they feared the Japanese might view his visit as such.  And, of course, this being the middle of a very ugly election year, the politicians and political wannabe’s had to have their say.  America’s very own bimbo, Sarah Palin, called the historic visit an “apology lap”, and accused Obama of “dissing our vets”.  She added, “Our commander in chief suggesting – actually, lying in suggestions – to the world that we were wrong to prove that we would eradicate evil in World War II.”  Eradicate evil?  Seriously?  But then, we did not really expect her to say anything sensible, did we?  Not content to leave it at that, she further added “You mess with our freedom, we’ll put a boot in your ass. It’s the American way.”  Would somebody please shut this bimbo up!!!!!

I give President Obama a two-thumbs-up for having the heart, the courage, and the class to stand up to his detractors and visit the historic city of Hiroshima.  At this point, nearly 71 years after the fact, apologies would have little meaning, but compassion and humanitarianism are always valued.  The tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were terrible and likely avoidable.  We cannot go back and change the decisions made decades ago, but we can learn from our past mistakes, and we can learn to respect those who were once our enemies.  This week, President Obama took a huge step toward showing that respect, and if it is viewed by some as an apology of sorts, then so be it.  Perhaps that is what is right and proper.

25 thoughts on “On President Obama’s Visit to Hiroshima

  1. Pingback: 75 Years Ago – 6 August 1945 | Filosofa's Word

  2. Pingback: In Memory of Hiroshima – 6 August 1945 | Filosofa's Word

  3. Hi Jill,
    I read John Hersey’s Hiroshima. I have been to Pearl Harbor and thrown flowers on the watery graves of the sailors. I have a replica of December 7’s newspaper.
    I know Michelle and Jacqueline. I met you at Jacqueline’s party. Maybe you can check out my blog if you need a blogging tip or two. That’s what I write about.

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  4. Great post! I was with you until I saw the name Sarah Palin. I would rather get pink eye than to see her on TV ever again. :/ I pray for her — ignorance to the Palin degree is quite scary. I, too, applaud President Obama for his compassion. He and his wife seem to be good people. There seems to be an absence of that in American politics. I think the healing can truly begin with this one visit.

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    • Thanks! Yes, I agree with you on all counts. I will be sad to see Obama leave office, as no matter who wins the election, I don’t think they can hold a candle to him. Thanks for dropping by my blog! Feel free to visit any time!

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  5. “Eradicate evil”…. oh my… It seems to me those bombs mostly eradicated the lives of innocent civilians… As has been said before, if it had been one bomb, they could claim that they did not know the effect it would have. But seeing what it did and throwing a second one… that is what I do not understand. Maybe Mrs. Palin ought to go and see for herself. But being her, she would probably sprout more of these phrases, even face to face with all the destruction. So maybe it is better she stays where she is (or she could immigrate to an uninhabited island, but I guess that is too much to hope for).

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    • I know, me too. Personally, I like him … I like his calm demeanor, I like his policies, I like his class. I am really going to miss him. But to hear the republicans tell it, he has never done a single thing right. Interesting … makes you wonder how he was re-elected for a 2nd term, doesn’t it? 🙂

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  6. it is said that Truman’s predessor, Franklin D. Roosevellt, had known about the atomic bomb, but chose not to use it. When Harry Truman became president after Roosevelt died, he was briefed on the heretofore secret weapon for the first time. The decision to use The Bomb was Truman’s. I might have tolerated one bomb….for experimental purposes… but a .second…after the “success” of the first instrument of death…is in my opinion unforgiveable. This is my opinion now, and always has been. I was 11 years old when armistice was declared.

    As for Sarah Palin…..why she even gets air time is a mystery to me!

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    • Strange to think, isn’t it, that the Manhattan Project was so secret that FDR didn’t even let his VP in on it? Today, a president couldn’t keep a secret like that, even from the media, let alone his veep! And I fully agree with you on Palin!


      • I believe FDR recognized the horror and atrocity of dropping a horrific thing on human beings and thus declined to use it. HST on the other hand, seems to have said “hey! cool! Let’s see what happens.” My dear grandfather, the gentlest man who ever lived, referred to Truman as “That Ass!” (base profanity coming from him) I like to think that was directed at HST!

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          • ah…probably the same thing you and I think. 🙂 I think I got most of my left-wing liberal do-gooder bleeding heart ideas from my grandparents. No, really ideas such as equality, respect for everyone everywhere, that kind of thing. My parents and other grandparents and aunts and uncles were also card-carrying Leftists like me…or I like them I should say. 🙂

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  7. I applaud the president for speaking these words to the Japanese and though I don’t agree with a lot of his legislative decisions, policies and the like I read the speech and, unlike some on the right who will say what they will as a way to maintain a sense of division, just as much as some on the left use similar tactics to engender that same sense of division, I suspect that such words are thrown around purely out of political motives and not with a genuine disagreement of what was said, if that all makes sense.

    Years ago, almost three, to be exact, I created what would be my most controversial album, a protest against Obamacare and as is usually the case with political art, regardless of what the subject matter is, it was a difficult task to find a label who would publish it.

    As an artist, I feel it is now time to make another album, not a protest but a sober commemoration of the tragedy on that august day, regardless of whether or not dropping the bomb saved lives but to address the moment in time in my own way. Since I tend to be a bit darker than most, I think a fitting title for the album shall be “Death Fell from the Skies”.

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