Last Friday in Hiroshima, a hug-and-cry made world headlines when the United States President, Barack Obama, showed up at Ground Zero, walked up to one of the last remaining survivors of a devastating act of state terrorism of 71 years ago and embraced him.
After this hug-and-cry, there was hardly a hue and cry over why Obama failed to apologise. Only a few critics raised the apology issue. This is because many saw the president of the United States, which carried out what would easily fit into any definition of a war crime, finally making the journey to Hiroshima, as a noble act extraordinary. Sadly, it was not an act of penance.
True, it required courage to visit the crime scene for moral cleansing. But just because Obama made history and became the first US president to mourn the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people who perished in two atomic bombs the US dropped just as the Japanese were preparing to surrender, certainly would not make him a ‘hero in Hiroshima’.
Even his carefully worded speech wherein he repeated his call for nuclear disarmament appeared perfunctory. Appearing on the world stage as a champion of the noble cause of disarmament, Obama succeeded in muting the call for an outright apology. Probably the US is avoiding an apology due to fears that there could be more calls for apologies coming in from several other countries where the US is alleged to have committed war crimes.
It’s said that to err is human and to forgive is divine. But one who seeks forgiveness is morally greater than one who forgives. For those who seek forgiveness are blessed with humility to admit to their wrongdoings and the courage to kill the ego, which is the root of all evils.
The United States is a great nation despite its troubled history which includes horrors committed on Native Americans at home and non-Americans overseas. Of such horrors, what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the most inhuman. History’s worst single act of state terrorism took place at exactly 15 minutes past eight in the morning of August 6, 1945 when Enola Gay, a United States’ Air Force B 29 bomber piloted by Paul Tibbets, dropped “Little Boy”, an 8,900-pound atomic weapon, and wiped out almost 90% of Hiroshima, civilians and all. As if such devastation was not enough, three days later, the United States was to repeat its terrorism: This time on Nagasaki. The two attacks killed more than 200,000 people instantly – and hundreds of thousands were to die in the subsequent months and years. Even in tests done 50 years after the attacks, scientists identified strands of radiation in various living organisms. It was a crime unparalleled in history. By comparison the 9/11 terrorism pales into insignificance.
Has anyone got a name for this military doctrine of indiscriminate killing of civilians? If civilians are killed accidentally in military action, such deaths are called “collateral damage”. But if civilians are intentionally killed along with enemy military personnel, is it not blatant terrorism? Sadly, 71 years later, Washington has apparently not abandoned its policy of killing civilians along with a few enemies.
That there has been hardly any attempt to bring the US before a war crimes tribunal for the crimes committed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki only underscores the immoral political philosophy: ‘might is right.’ To hell with Nuremberg trials, the failure to haul the US before a war crimes tribunal has encouraged it to commit more war crimes as and when it pleases. The US used chemical weapons – Agent Orange being one such weapon — and napalm bombs during the Vietnam War and the people in Vietnam are still suffering from their ill effects. The US killed more than 3,000 civilians during the air attacks that preceded the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The air attacks prior to the ground invasion of Iraq in 2003 killed more than 6,000 civilians. The lives of hudreds of Pakistani villagers are snuffed out in never-ending US drone attacks, which have been condemned by human rights activists as war crimes.
Debates continue even today on why the US dropped the atomic bombs on Japan. Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki figured least in any military threat assessment. They were certainly not like Raqqa, the ISIS terror capital in Syria or Tora Bora, the al-Qaeda stronghold in Afghanistan.
The pro-bomb argument was that Japan was evil and the two bombs saved thousands of American lives.
But historians rubbish such arguments. They say Japan was in any case prepared to surrender and overtures for surrender began to pour in as early as January 1945. They say Japan had lost the will to fight after the Tokyo bombing which is regarded as the single deadliest conventional air raid during World War II. More than 100,000 people died when US war planes pulverized Tokyo on March 9, 1945. Many believe Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen not to force Japan’s surrender but to test atomic weapons on real people.
Given this context, the real courage and greatness of America can be seen not in the presence of the US President at the Hiroshima memorial but in an apology, in an admission of guilt and in setting the record straight. When this happens, let the world celebrate World War II victory day.
These days, at Donald Trump’s election rallies, making America great again is a key slogan. His main Democratic Party rival Hillary Clinton pooh-poohs the slogan and says the United States is always great and there is no need to make it great anew. True, the United States is a great nation inhabited by people of conscience, humanitarians who value justice and freedom and great scientists to whom the world is indebted for their inventions and discoveries which have contributed in no small measure to the wellbeing of the human race.
But this greatness is sullied by the superpower ego and the shenanigans of real politics, at the core of which are the ambition to militarily dominate the world and the greed to amass wealth and more wealth by means just and unjust, fair and foul.
With the embedded corporate media groups supporting this political mission, sadly many people in the US appear to have mixed up their priorities. They cry for an apology from zoo officials after a gorilla in a Cincinnati zoo was shot dead to save a child early this week, but they are indifferent to the hundreds of thousands of deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 71 years ago or the deaths of more than 700 illegal migrants in the Mediterranean Sea this week.
The Japanese are a great people. Their greatness comes from their ability to forgive the United States for its blatant act of state terrorism, even though Obama did not apologise.