politics

Obama's Hiroshima visit looks to future amid charges of selective amnesia

34 Comments
By Linda Sieg and Matt Spetalnick

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Nor is Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 partly for making nuclear non-proliferation a centrepiece of his agenda, expected to address the debate over whether the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified.

Obama did not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize and he got it, contrary to this, for becoming the first person of color to become the President of the US of A.

Awarding the peace prize for a platform speech or policy decision was and still is nearsighted and politically motivated at best.

The Nobel Peace Prize lost quite a bit of luster after it was awarded to Obama. He still has yet to do anything that makes him worthy of the prize and should return it.

-2 ( +10 / -12 )

Most Japanese believe they were unjustified.

Most? Perhaps most Japanese people are like the rest of the world and are complex, emotional individuals who have a variety of opinions on any given subject? They can perhaps, like most issues, have the ability to realize the contradictions of the past that has shaped contemporary Japan?

"Japanese people" is kind of abstraction that maybe isn't that useful in analyzing the issue of the bombs being justified/unjustified.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

Critics argue that by not apologising, Obama will allow Japan to stick to the narrative that paints it as a victim.

Everyone is the victim of war, EVERYBODY! Japan needs to stop playing the "we did nothing to deserve this" card and take look at the war history or better still move on!

16 ( +18 / -2 )

Part of the subtext is telling this and future Japanese leaders that ‘If I can go to Hiroshima and take flak for it at home, you can certainly do a little more to own up to what Japan did,” said one U.S. official,

Unfortunately, I don't think the Japanese side will read that deeply into it.

Japanese nationalists will declare vindication of the empire and of the Japanese people, even if the president insists we are all culpable for war and its effects

THAT'S the spin they will put on it.

Critics argue that by not apologising, Obama will allow Japan to stick to the narrative that paints it as a victim.

This is perverse logic. Apologizing would allow Japan to paint itself more as a victim.

What the Japanese government is doing now is denying the fact that Japanese soldiers committed atrocities and the Japanese nation as a whole committed the war of aggression. Somehow, they are trying to sanitise Japanese war conduct,”

Let's hope Obama brings that up.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

“Part of the subtext is telling this and future Japanese leaders that ‘If I can go to Hiroshima and take flak for it at home, you can certainly do a little more to own up to what Japan did...”

This sounds nice in theory, but the actual outcome will be a far cry from this. His visit will feed into the agenda of Abe and the other nationalists, and will be construed by much of Japan's mainstream population as Obama's acceptance of the Japan as victim not aggressor narrative.

“Japanese nationalists will declare vindication of the empire and of the Japanese people, even if the president insists we are all culpable for war and its effects"

As for the government's agenda...

"Somehow, [the Japanese government is] trying to sanitise Japanese war conduct,” said Hiroshima historian Yuki Tanaka.

Here, historian Tanaka is somewhere close to the mark, abeit what she said is a gross understatement. I would reword what she said as, "Clearly, the Japanese government is sanitizing and glorifying Japanese war conduct."

The government's narrative is more along the lines of Japan having liberated the countries it occupied and improving those countries by introducing Japanese rule of law, education and infrastructure, and that now those countries are horribly ungrateful in not recognizing Japan's occupation as benevolent.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Sneaky PM Abe is trying to place Pres. Obama in a clumsy situation by amplifying America's solitary title as the only nation that used nukes.

Of course Japan being the only country to suffer from the devastating effects of the atomic bomb will again be the centerpiece of world discussion pointing to America as the bad guy.

Nice move Shinzo!

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Sneaky PM Abe is trying to place Pres. Obama in a clumsy situation by amplifying America's solitary title as the only nation that used nukes.

Sneaky is not a word I'd use to disagree Abe. Corrupt, incompetent, oblivious, are all better words.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

A majority of Americans see the bombings as having been necessary to end the war and save U.S. and Japanese lives.

Just U.S. lives. But that's what mattered most in the war - saving the lives of one's countrymen, not the enemies. U.S. mothers didn't want to lose the lives of more of their sons, and U.S. was tired of the war. There'd be riots and calls for the U.S. President to be lynched if hundreds of thousands of those mothers' sons further were killed in Japan once they found out there was another option to save their sons' lives. Japanese lives didn't enter into this equation, for better or worse. It's just about saving their own sons' lives - they weren't about to sacrifice their sons' lives in lieu of enemy lives.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Just wondering if you actually live in Japan, Elmundo?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I was wondering the same thing Outrider

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Most Japanese believe they were unjustified.

Most Japanese view has unfortunately little value here given how little most of the population know really about what happened during the war and how biased the little they know is. Just look at a text book for schools of any grade to convince yourself.

Critics argue that by not apologising, Obama will allow Japan to stick to the narrative that paints it as a victim.

Totally ridiculous statement. Knowing the tendency of Japanese to play the victim card, an apologize of US (outside of the question whether it is necessary or not) will surely make the victimizing attitude of the population even stronger and give them more excuses to say "you see, we were not that bad. What is then with this sex slaving and Nanking massacre things?" Unless Japan fully recognizes the atrocities the Japanese Empire did, I don't see how US could apologize for anything.

expected to address the debate over whether the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified.

The justification of the bombings was clear from the US side at that time, there is no question about that. It wanted to make Japan, a country viewed as populated with fanatics, capitulate and it was not willing to have more american soldiers killed on battle fields.

What is questionable is whether or not the bombings made Japan capitulate. A recent extensive historical research published in a french book called "The World War II myths" says it was only partially the case. The second major reason that contributed to the capitulation was a sudden and rapid advance of the Russian soldiers in Manchuria and Korea on August 8th 1945 between the two bombings. The Japanese army (around 700,000 men) was wiped out in Manchuria (a poorly known battle by the way) in one week. By that time only the Sea of Japan was separating the Russian troops from Japan and from a total invasion of the country. The Emperor and his generals were terribly scared by a potential Russian invasion which could have changed tremendously the social and economical structure of Japan. This fear is now known to have strongly accelerate the decision of the Emperor to capitulate.

Now this is actually the Japanese Emperor who started to say that Japan is capitulating because of the nuclear bombings, so he is the direct responsible of this "myth". The reason he did that was that he tried to distant himself from his tremendous responsibilities that brought Japan to an unnecessary and apocalyptic war. By claiming that Japan was capitulating in front of an inhuman weapon that goes beyond any horror commuted during the war, he tried to escape from his own responsibilities that lead to a catastrophic management of the Japanese Empire and to its committed atrocities since 1937. Basically putting the entire blame on US in order to save his head.

On the other hand, US never contradicted this version because US had also all to win to have people believe that Japan capitulated because of the nuclear bombings. First it made the victory and then the influence of Russia less important in that region and second it allowed the US government to justify the massive public investments that went into developing those nuclear weapons.

So at the end, this myth came into life because Japan needed it to save the head of the emperor and US needed it to justify its weapon development program and to win over Russia in this region.

https://www.amazon.fr/mythes-Seconde-Guerre-Mondiale/dp/2262048460

5 ( +6 / -1 )

It is easy to google a list of Americans who actually participated in WWII as high ranking officials, saying that dropping the bombs had nothing to do with ending the war.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

It is easy to google a list of Americans who actually participated in WWII as high ranking officials

Yes this is true. But I prefer to quote a serious and extensive study done by 20 historians specialized in World War II than just picking some quotes from google. -:)

7 ( +7 / -0 )

It is easy to google a list of Americans who actually participated in WWII as high ranking officials, saying that dropping the bombs had nothing to do with ending the war.

And yet you couldn't be bothered to provide a link.

Necessary or otherwise, IJ most certainly would have nuked Japan, if they could.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Does anyone doubt that if the Imperial Japanese Army had had nuclear weapons, that they would have used them? Given that they used chemical and biological weapons on thousands of Chinese, it is probable, IMO, that the IJA would have gladly used nuclear weapons on Chinese and North American cities, if they could have.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Yubaru,

The Nobel Peace Prize lost quite a bit of luster after it was awarded to Obama. He still has yet to do anything that makes him worthy of the prize and should return it.

Hmmm. Don't know about that. Seems to fit in beautifully:

The Nobel Peace Prize (Norwegian, Danish and Swedish: Nobels fredspris) is one of the five Nobel Prizes created by the Swedish industrialist, inventor, and armaments manufacturer Alfred Nobel. (Wikipedia)

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Oh, this is so pathetic on so many levels! Man up Japan! Stop feeling sorry for yourself. You brought the war on by yourselves and you lost everything because of it. Accept it!

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Nobel created the peace prize partly because he was horrified by how his inventions were being misused to unleash violence.

Obama's receipt of that price was an embarrassment, he should have refused it.

Back on topic though, I don't see why Obama should have to apologize for this event, was he even alive when the bomb was dropped? Japan was lucky enough to be completely rebuilt and turned into a powerhouse after the war, thanks to generous US support. Imagine if the Soviets had taken over Japan and it had ended up like East Germany.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I don’t see the need for the U.S. to offer any apologies about the steps it took to end World War II. What I do see is the need for everyone to ask: What did we learn from World War II about humanity? Let’s hope the answer allows us to make the world a better place to live going forward.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

as long as the glorious IJA continues to survive in the hearts and minds today they will never accept Hiroshima as the end of that way of life, nor a future without it

3 ( +3 / -0 )

How long are we going to keep apologizing for past acts that were committed when we weren't even born..........?

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

This is a topic that is really hard to debate especially with right wingers. Had it last night on this topic I literally had RW GGs drunk asking me "when is our time?" (to rule the world). its quite shocking how nationalism not patriotism is ingrained in the psyche.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Kurisupisu

as many times as required. The day you stop apologizing is the day you are no longer asked, it's not decided by Japan. As long as you see yourself as a victim of the USA and apologies are an afrontment, versus seeing yourself as a victim of the IJA and apologies are atonement, a reflection on how different Japan is today and a chance to look forward to your accomplishments away from those past terrible ideas. Thus the apology requests would go down, because you can show change.

The events of WWII should be seen as renewal for Japan, saving it from the ravages of a racist age. Rather than wallow in Imperial yore. Kick those aside and allow the Japan of today to emerge. You can celebrate your liberated future.

As long as Japan is trapped by its Imperial past it will remain there. Many Japanese already realize this, and change is slow to come, but unfortunately many still refuse.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I do not understand what he should apologize for... war is war. Japanese were the Nazi of the East that started it and therefore had it coming. Of course it is unpleasant that civilians end up being the collateral damage, but the uglines of war is nothing but that... rather the soldiers diying in battle. Throughout the whole history of mankind. Japanese premiers never visited Nankin or went there apologizing for the hundred of thousends they slauthered there. They hardly apologized or even admitted a good deal of their own 'civil' misconducts in war against Korea, Philippines, etc. and when it happened, it was forcefully and motivated by foreign pressure rather than their willngness to do so. I truly think that those of them wearing the mask of the victims because two nukes were used on them to end the war asking for apologies in the 21st century are rather hypocrit.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

"Perhaps most Japanese people are like the rest of the world and are complex, emotional individuals who have a variety of opinions on any given subject?"

Not when it comes to this topic. They are subjected to relentless indoctrination that doesnt tolerate alternative views. Kinda like they were in the 1930s for another certain cause. Kinda ironic, no?

" It is easy to google a list of Americans who actually participated in WWII as high ranking officials, saying that dropping the bombs had nothing to do with ending the war."

Participated in WW2 , but not in the decision-marking behind the bomb. They were out of the loop, like Eisenhower over in Europe waging conventional war.

Anyway, many of them favored burning more and more Japanese cities to the ground using incendiaries or a full land invasion, which would have cause far more destruction and death for the Japanese. These military commanders you cite weren't peaceniks, I can assure you.

Context is the enemy of the revisionist.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

For Japan to truly atone for its history, Abe must go to Nanking.

If you really want to tell the world Japan atones, then show it. Don't visit Yasukuni, visit the statue of the little girl in Seoul South Korea. Embrace the new Japan, open and atoning for its history. Not hiding and continuing its Imperial ambitions.

Pass a law making the public denial of the war a crime like that of Germany. Start hauling off the Black Vans and Imperial garbed oyajis. Make Zainichi Koreans Japanese citizens who can either stay or go. Make decisions like that of a country that has been set free. Not a country that keeps everything Imperial the same as much as possible.

Start showing us that you understand that the war is over, and you were a victim not of the USA, but of the IJA. USA merely stopped you. Japan at the time deserved to be stopped. It's a sad tale, but it's a world wide lesson.

Now is your chance to move on. Show the world that you can. Go to Nanking, to Seoul, to whereever and whenever. Be the life that you lead now in freedom and free of hate be the celebration of the new Japan. It came at a heavy cost, not just at home but abroad too. Make it worth something. It is you who should be willing to carry it if it means you lead a worthwhile life

11 ( +12 / -1 )

90% of Japanese take this news positively. Most Japanese aporeciate that Obama coming to visit Hiroshima. I myself dont expect him to apologize, but it doesnt mean that the bombing should be justified. I'm just fed up with quarreling with neighbering countries over what happened over 70 years ago.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

sf2k: Spot on! Obama coming to even see Hiroshima while still president is a big step for the US, it is time for Japan to finally do the same -- not claim it has apologised and then the next day send lawmakers (and wife) to Yasukuni, allow other lawmakers (or same) to deny atrocities occurred, and have them say the apology is just to move forward and is not an apology for what happened, etc.

“Part of the subtext is telling this and future Japanese leaders that ‘If I can go to Hiroshima and take flak for it at home, you can certainly do a little more to own up to what Japan did,”

Bingo!

sarina: " I'm just fed up with quarreling with neighbering countries over what happened over 70 years ago."

Then have Japanese leaders visit Nanjing, even if they don't want to apologise.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

U.S. President Barack Obama has got himself well beyond a pair of wellies into the deep and politically smelly. One has to hand it to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who will accompany U.S. President Barack Obama holding his Nobel Peace Prize won in 2009 off a stick like a carrot.... ee aw..... . Japanese nationalists will declare vindication of the empire and of the Japanese people, even if the president insists we are all culpable for war and its effects, and pacifists will imagine this is a step toward the end of nuclear weapons despite new U.S. investments and Japan’s open embrace of the nuclear deterrent.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The bomb dropped on Hiroshima on Aug 6, 1945, killed thousands instantly and about 140,000 by the end of the year. Nagasaki was hit on Aug 9 and Japan surrendered six days later.

As usual no mention was made of Russia's entry to the war. Imperial high command didn't care about the bombs. It was the idea of unconditional surrender which bothered them, and the fact the Russians might have invaded an undefended Hokkaido.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The President’s chief of staff, William D. Leahy–the five-star admiral who presided over meetings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff–noted in his diary seven weeks before the bombing of Hiroshima: “It is my opinion that at the present time a surrender of Japan can be arranged with terms that can be accepted by Japan and that will make fully satisfactory provision for America’s defense against future trans-Pacific aggression.” http://www.salon.com/2016/05/11/we_didnt_need_to_drop_the_bomb_and_even_our_ww_ii_military_icons_knew_it/

Power vacuum in northeast China after Japan surrendered made poor provision for America’s and Japan’s defense against future East Asia’s instability. Present China and the Korean peninsula are out of kilter by all odds even 70 years after the war.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Why shouldn't Japan sanitize its history. The British certainly have sanitized the history of the British Empire (you know, "The sun never sets on the British Empire", as if that is a good thing). The Europeans were so nice that they came to introduce civilization to the rest of the world. That tiny island Britian which has nothing got rich by plundering the resources of the world and enslaving populations. Well, China seems to have bought into this revisionist, sanitized history. They never ask Britian, France, Germany, or even little Portugual for an apology (well, they are white). We should apologize when the others apologize. Not to mention that Japan was a nice isolated country until the American Commodore Perry came and forced it open. Then it modernized using the British imperialist model (unfortunately), so why should Japan be blamed for making an empire? It was the fashion of the day.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Everyone is the victim of war, EVERYBODY! Japan needs to stop playing the "we did nothing to deserve this" card.

Very strange.

This is exactly reversed, what I think that the US (allies) say and NOT what Japanese say. Wild!

Most Japanese I know say "it was all very regrettable" or something along the lines of "due to the circumstances of the time the Japanese did a lot of bad things, it was all very regrettable" and "Everyone is the victim of war, EVERYBODY! " is a sentiment I hear a lot here in Japan.

Whereas the allies seem to think that they were attacked by the Japanese for no reason and their war effort was just just self-defence "Due to the actions of Japan we did a lot of good things." "We were the victim of war, the Japanese were the aggressors."

"Everyone is the victim of war" so we need to stop doing it. Prayers.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Part of the subtext is telling this and future Japanese leaders that ‘If I can go to Hiroshima and take flak for it at home, you can certainly do a little more to own up to what Japan did

The problem with this logic is a fundamental misunderstanding of the Japanese character. Wolferen touches on this in his chapter management of reality and throughout his book

Just send the Emperor to China and other SE countries that were violated by IJA, and make a sincere gesture and move on. That logic would upset the accepted reality that has already been declared to fit the unique Japanese model and sanctioned by the system, and thus it shall not be tolerated. If you expect the Japanese to take a clue from Obamas visit to Hiroshima, it means you are still processing Japanese character through a Western filter. This is the more likely outcome: “Japanese nationalists will declare vindication of the empire and of the Japanese people, even if the president insists we are all culpable for war and its effects

Seemingly absurd to the Western mind, but this reaction is very Japanese

The Abe administration has affirmed past government apologies but asserts that future generations should not have to apologise for the wartime sins of their forebears.

Yes of course; a new reality and justification has been created to fit the Japanese model

Another example+ Ishihara can call out the West for its march of racism and colonialism, but then he can be excused for calling gaijin barbarians or insulting Chinese and justifying Japans occupation of Asia and atrocities.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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