U.S. will attend Hiroshima memorial for first time

Hiroshima

The U.S. ambassador to Japan, Jon Roos, will attend the Aug. 6 ceremony in Hiroshima marking the 65th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of the city. It is the first time a U.S. official has ever attended the event.

The ambassador will "represent the United States at the August 6 Hiroshima Peace Memorial to express respect for the victims of World War II," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters. "At this particular point, we thought it was the right thing to do."

The Japanese government has welcomed the news.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said the Japanese government hopes the occasion would provide the opportunity for the U.S. to deepen its understanding of Japan's pledge to prevent another atomic catastrophe from taking place.

More than 140,000 people were killed instantly in Hiroshima or died in the days and weeks after the U.S. dropped the A-bomb on Aug. 6, 1945. Three days later a U.S. military plane dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, killing more than 70,000 people.

Japan is the only nation to have been attacked with atomic bombs.

Roos is expected to lay a floral wreath at the Hiroshima memorial.

Since the late 1990s Hiroshima city officials have invited all nuclear weapons powers to participate in the annual commemoration. While Russia, China, India and Pakistan have done so, the U.S., Britain and France have not.

However this year both France and the United Kingdom have announced they too will send members of their embassies to the event.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will also attend the ceremony this week, becoming the first chief of the world body to do so. The secretary-general also plans to visit the memorial for Korean atomic bomb victims in Nagasaki.

UN officials say they hope the secretary-general's visit will draw attention to the urgent need to achieve global nuclear disarmament.

In the 65 years since the bombs were dropped, no U.S. president has ever visited Hiroshima. President Jimmy Carter did, but only after his term as president had ended.

Last November while President Obama was visiting Japan, a television reporter in Tokyo confronted him about the issue during a joint press conference with then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

The reporter asked Obama if he would visit the two cities, adding, "What is your understanding of the historical meaning of the A-bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Do you think it was the right decision?"

Obama did not entirely answer the question but replied, "Obviously Japan has a unique perspective on the issue of nuclear weapons as a consequence of Hiroshima and Nagasaki." He said, "I certainly would be honored, it would be meaningful for me to visit those two cities in the future."

Scholars and others have debated weather the U.S. decision to drop the A-bombs was justified and pre-empted a greater loss of life on both sides during World War II.

Many contend the bombings were an immoral act, a major war crime, and unnecessary to end the war. Many hope this year's commemoration in Japan, with representation from the allied powers of that war, will demonstrate an important shift toward eradicating nuclear weapons.

They point to President Obama's 2009 speech in Prague where he called for a nuclear-free world. The speech was widely welcomed by the public around the globe.

Photo: Hiroshima's Genbaku Dome, the only structure left standing in the city after the atom bomb hit, is now the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.  http://www.flickr.com/photos/twicepix/4134181736/ cc 2.0

 

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  • I'm thrilled that we would at least have the fortitude to vist the commeration this year, allthough we didn't go far enough. Our nation has a guilty concience for a reason. We should apologize for all those men, women and children we vaporized at the end of WWII. Innocents.

    Posted by Andrew Cribb, 08/06/2010 1:07pm (4 years ago)

  • I very much enjoyed Pepe Lozano’s article.

    It is of course a good thing for an ambassador-level representative of the US to attend the Hiroshima memorial, but it is extremely unfortunate that no apology nor US statement of responsibility is to be offered.

    I believe the US will never come to terms with the horror of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki so long as the public believes that these were necessary acts to end the war and to save hundreds of thousands of American lives. That is a myth; tit was no such thing. And this case can be made.

    Gar Alperowitz, author of what is probably the definitive American study of the history of the use of the atomic bomb, found a public statement by Admiral Leahy a few years after the bombings.

    At that time Leahy said:

    “It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender...

    “My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I waas not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children...”

    I am hardly convinced the war ethics of the so-called Dark Ages were any more barbaric than those of the current era, but that’s another issue. In any case, Leahy was no run-of-the-mill Admiral, but head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and a close friend of Roosevelt and Truman.

    Somewhat later Alperowitz found an article by J. Samuel Walker, chief historian of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the journal Diplomatic History. Walker observed:

    “Careful scholarly treatment of the records and manuscripts opened over the past few years has greatly enhanced our understanding of why the Truman administration used atomic weapons against Japan. Experts continue to disagree on some issues, but critical questions have been answered. The consensus among scholars is that the bomb was not needed to avoid an invasion of Japan and to end the war within a relatively short time. It is clear that alternatives to the bomb existed and that Truman and his advisers knew it.”

    And a little later in the same article Walker adds:

    “ It is certain that the hoary claim that the bomb prevented one-half million American combat deaths is unsupportable.”

    It seems increasingly clear that the real reason Truman used the bomb against Japan was for “dilomatic purposes”, that is, to threaten and intimidate the Soviet Union, then about to enter the war against Japan. In fact, it was probably the first shot in the Cold War and it casts the Truman Administration is a harsher new light.

    Posted by Dave Cunningham, 08/05/2010 8:27pm (4 years ago)

  • This is very significant and we need to follow-up in cities to connect peoples'anti-nuclear war movements with local governments and these in turn to international events,meetings and movements.
    President Obama's speech in Prague was,many say, contradicted later,in Oslo.
    Clinton's atrocious remarks on Korea in Asia are well documented and show the wanton reckessness and deadliness of imperialism's nuclear insanity.
    This is practically true.
    One cannot theoretically seek nuclear disarmament and then do actions that encourage nuclear armament and tension for the same.
    We need local,state,national and international pressure for the Obama administration to act with concrete proposals and moves.
    The cities of the world can be flashpoints for activism which simultaneously decry nuclear war,war preparation and deployment,tax giveaways to the wealthy,along with massive profit making deregulation,these actions devasting local and state economies,with backward,anti-working class international trade policy.
    Recognition of the need to have a peace economy, revealing how nuclear war and war preclude social and economic justice is long overdue. Nuclear war and its crippling effect on human life,economically,socially and historically,with the real evidence of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,is a human need of all city and local levels of government.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 08/05/2010 12:56pm (4 years ago)

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