Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hiroshima: Should America Apologize?

Of course not. Recently Hiroshima and Nagasaki observed the 65th anniversary of being destroyed by atom bombs. I feel sorry for the thousands of people who were killed and had to suffer the after effects of radiation. When I say I feel sorry I say it in the same manner as I'd feel for the millions who got killed or were left crippled due to war time bombings. No more, no less.For the first time US ambassador to Japan attended the memorial service. The service featured UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon bowing solemnly in memory of the victims. World press noted the presence of US Ambassador and many columnist wrote ruefully that the ambassador did not offer any words of contrition.

Seen from any angle this is patent foolishness and sheer hypocrisy. Lets be clear it was war time. It was a war that the US did not start and was brought into screaming and kicking. What is worse the supposed victim, Japan, was the aggressor to begin with. Does anyone remember Pearl Harbor? Also lets look closer at how the events unfolded in the run up to the dropping of the bomb.

Hitler was dead, Germany had surrendered. Mussolini was hung from a lamp post and Italy lay prostrate. Russia and US had divided up Europe. America turned its gaze eastward. Japan refused to end the war. On the sideline of the war both Germany and America were pursuing the atom bomb. Scientists who fled Nazi Germany pleaded with Einstein to write the famous letter that gave birth to the "Manhattan Project". Recent research points to evidence that Germany was indeed close  to devising the atom bomb.

Japan vowed to fight and fight bitterly. The 'Battle of Iwo Jima' showed their resolve in no uncertain terms. It was a very costly victory, in terms of casualties, for the US. Truman conferred with his generals about the invasion of mainland Japan. The projection for US casualties was staggering. Equally staggering was projected civilian casualties. Meantime Oppenheimer had delivered the bomb to Truman. As American president Truman had his choice clearly made out.

There has been controversy over whether Hiroshima and Nagasaki were legitimate military targets. Some have suggested that those cities were civilian targets and were chosen to hit the Japanese hard into capitulation. I am no expert on judging that but lets remember this was war time and neither the Japanese nor Germany were coy about terrorizing civilians. Remember Blitzkrieg anyone?

The Japanese were brutal and ruthless in their forays into China and Korea. The Nanking massacres by Japanese army is ranked as horrifying war crime that killed thousands of women and children (by some estimates the figures are close to the combined casualties of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). The Bataan death march is equally notorious. I wish Ban Ki Moon who genuflects in Japan would do the same at Nanking. The radiation effects are often talked about sympathetic clucking of mouths but little thought is spared that millions were maimed in many other bombings and war time acts by both sides.

The nature of the weapon, the zero casualty suffered by America in the bombing, the unique after effects for the victims certainly put nuclear weapons in a separate league but given the surrounding factors and circumstances this is not something for which America owes an apology. However our wonderful president who thinks America owes a mea culpa for just being America sent the ambassador to be a mute witness. By sending a mute stand by witness Obama alienated both right and left. The right felt he was being pusillanimous. The left felt why send the ambassador without a directive to offer contrition. Trying to please everyone, as always, he ended up looking as confused as ever.

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