Happy Friday! Despite it being Friday, this post is quite serious.
That voice in my head has some thoughts on Hiroshima, WWII, and current events:
Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit on April 12th to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum is, for lack of a better word, historic. It’s the first time a high-ranking United States official has visited Hiroshima since the US dropped two atomic bombs on Japan in August of 1945 (the first on Hiroshima, the second on Nagasaki). Many news outlets, both American and Japanese, have talked about Kerry’s visit. The American Embassy in Japan posted on Facebook this picture of the message Kerry wrote in the museum’s guest book:
"Everyone in the world should see and feel the power of this memorial. It is a stark, harsh, compelling reminder not only of our obligation to end the threat of nuclear weapons, but to rededicate all our effort to avoid war itself. War must be the last resort - never the first choice. This memorial compels us all to redouble our efforts to change the world, to find peace and build the future so yearned for by citizens everywhere. "
Kerry is in Japan for the G7 Summit being held in neighboring Mie Prefecture next month.
So what to think of Kerry’s visit to the Peace Memorial Park and Museum and his accompanying message? Some might think it idealistic but I, for one, agree with his statement. We live in a world where terrorism, guns, and war have become a constant, almost ordinary occurrence. I hope most would agree that war should be the last resort to any conflict; however, it seems that we are forgetting what being war is like.
There is a great animated video about what wartime is like that is posted below. I encourage everyone to watch, as it does an amazing job of illustrating and describing how a country and its citizens actually decide to go to war. (It's in Japanese with English subtitles)
For those who can't get the video to work, here's the link:
There is also talk of President Obama going to visit Peace Park. No sitting US president has visited Hiroshima since the bombing, so it would be a huge honor for the people of Hiroshima, and probably reinforce positive US-Japan relations. However, some US conservative critics think that Obama’s visit may look like an apology. Now, the way we’re taught as Americans about the use of atomic bombs on Japan is that it was a necessary evil in order to end the war swiftly and to save millions of American and Japanese lives.
I’ve done the research- read the books and watched the History Channel programs- and I have to agree to a certain extent. But- and it’s a major ‘but’- that is where my agreement ends. After the first bomb on Hiroshima was dropped, the Imperial Japanese government was on the verge of surrender. The Allied forces knew this, and some thought that if the terms of surrender were changed slightly Japan would have an easier time accepting surrender. However, President Truman and his “Assistant President,” as he was nicknamed, Secretary of State James Byrnes were more concerned with the threat of the Soviet Union’s communist expansion, and thus decided to use the atomic bomb as a show of America’s strength and power. Essentially, it was an intimidation tactic on Japan and, indirectly, Soviet Russia.
Here are some quotes to support my statements:
"after atomic bomb Japan will surrender and Russia will not get in so much on the kill". (Robert Messer, The End of an Alliance, pg. 105)
“Byrnes did not want to publicly offer Japan their main peace condition: retention of their emperor, whom the Japanese believed to be a god. He was worried about the administration's public popularity if Truman allowed Japan to keep their emperor in return for Japan's surrender. So contrary to the recommendations of the top U.S. expert on Japan, Joseph Grew, and of Sec. of War Stimson, Byrnes helped convince President Truman to remove any assurances on keeping the emperor from the surrender demand that was issued to Japan from the Potsdam Conference.”
Was this a good enough reason to drop two nuclear bombs on Japanese cities? I guess that depends on your view of history. Personally, I think the argument for the first bomb as a “necessary evil” is acceptable, but the second atomic bomb was overkill and unnecessary. People who survived the explosion and resulting radiation could have scars for a lifetime and a higher chance of developing cancer; or if that wasn’t enough, a-bomb survivors were discriminated against in marriage for fear that babies born from those people would have defects. Dropping the atomic bomb on civilians not only caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, but it also impacted survivors’ lives- their ability to have a long, healthy, happy life.
What if the US hadn’t dropped the bombs? Would there have been millions of American and Japanese deaths, instead of just hundreds of thousands? Would the Cold War that arose after WWII have included Japan?
We can play the “what if” game all we want, but the fact of the matter is, nuclear bombs caused hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties and severely impacted the future generations of Hiroshima dwellers. If President Obama gets criticized for paying respects to those civilians the US is responsible for killing, what kind of a country have we become?
If, when he comes to Japan, President Obama decides to visit Hiroshima, I will applaud his decision and be supremely proud of my country for looking forward towards a brighter future, while acknowledging, learning from, and respecting the past.