(Article changed on August 11, 2013 at 21:49)
The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history. -- George Orwell
I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever. -- Thomas Jefferson
This month marks the 68 th anniversary of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Each year commemoration ceremonies are held in those cities in mournful remembrance of the more than 200,000 who died as a result of those horrific blasts.
It was not until 2010, 65 years later, that the first official delegation of the U.S. government was in attendance to pay its respects at the Hiroshima ceremonial. U.S. attendance in Nagasaki followed in 2011. This year will be the fourth consecutive year that President Obama will have instructed the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, John Roos, to be in attendance. Roos has wisely used this opportunity to serve as a spokesman for nuclear disarmament. During his first appearance at the Hiroshima ceremonial in 2010 he said:
For the sake of future generations we must continue to work together to realize a world without nuclear weapons.
This first ever attendance by the U.S. Ambassador in 2010 met with mixed reactions in Japan. Some saw this as a welcome sign that the U.S. was getting serious about its stated commitment to nuclear disarmament. Others were not so generous in their evaluations, feeling that an event of this magnitude warranted the presence of a sitting president. Given Obama's oft-stated pro nuclear disarmament stance, his attendance at the Hiroshima commemorative ceremonial would send just the kind of message so many Japanese have long been waiting for. Still, there are those Japanese for whom the mere presence of a sitting president at these events falls far short of what they feel is required, hitching any real progress on the disarmament front to a sincere heartfelt U.S. apology for what they see as the wholly unjustified and unnecessary atomic bombing of two major Japanese civilian population centers.
Right-Wing Fabrication of Obama's Intended Apology
The 68 th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Japan this August once again finds the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, John Roos, in attendance, and, as has been standard fare since his first appearance in 2010, there will be no apology. But what I'd like to focus on here for a moment is the lead-up to last year's 2012 anniversary. Several months prior to this, right-wing media made much of a Wikileaks-released diplomatic cable claiming to tell of plans President Obama had to apologize for America's 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during his 2009 visit to Japan. Investors Business Daily castigated Obama for his alleged plans to "apologize" to Japan "for defending freedom" and "for winning with devastating finality the war Japan started." The National Review Online, Rush Limbaugh, The Drudge Report, and Fox News, among other right-wing media outlets, followed Investor Business Daily's lead, claiming that the only reason Obama's planned apology failed to materialize is that Japan had the good sense to disapprove of the plan.
The White House denied that there ever was any plans to apologize to Japan for America's WW II atomic decimation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Wikileaks cable bears this out. Following a meeting with Japan's Vice Foreign Minister, the U.S. Ambassador to Japan cabled Secretary of State Clinton expressing Japan's concern that a visit by Obama to Hiroshima, coming on the heels of Obama's previously expressed commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons, would fuel speculation, particularly among anti-nuclear groups, whether an Obama apology might be in the offing. Japan worried that such speculation would play into the hands of these anti-nuclear groups, providing them with greater visibility and a stronger voice in their efforts to garner increasing public support for their anti-nuclear agenda. The diplomatic cable was sent, then, not to ward off a planned Obama apology as Obama's detractors have claimed, but rather to ward off any speculation that such an apology might be in the works, and that an Obama visit to Hiroshima might serve to provoke. To this end, Japan's foreign ministry recommended that both governments do what they can to keep all such speculation to a minimum, and that this could be accomplished by having Tokyo be the primary focus of Obama's 2009 visit. End of story.
The story that an Obama apology was in the offing was an outright fabrication that has since been exposed, and yet, as far as I am aware, there have been no retractions. Investors Business Daily, the National Review Online, Rush Limbaugh, the Drudge Report, and Fox News, let the lie stand.
But what is most disturbing about the media's coverage of this right-wing intentional deception is that no one in the media asked the all-important question: What if Obama actually did have plans to apologize to Japan on behalf of America for its atomic incineration of two Japanese high-density civilian population centers? What of it? What exactly is the crime in this? Might it just be that such an apology is in order, and long overdue? The media has given no consideration to this at all. Instead, the entire focus has been on whether Obama is guilty or not of having had plans to apologize for America. The right-wing conservative media assumed Obama's guilt, the left-leaning liberal media came to his defense, and the mainstream media, where it wasn't following the right wing's deceptive lead, reported on the controversy. The important issue in all of this -- the moral justification, or lack thereof, of America's atomic bombing of Japan -- was entirely ignored.
Is Apologizing When You've Said Or Done Something Detestable Un-American?
What is most disconcerting about all of this is not that right-wing disinformation outlets intentionally misrepresented the aforementioned diplomatic cable as the basis for making false accusations against Obama, but that in the present political climate the idea of America apologizing to the Japanese people for its use of nuclear weapons on civilian populations should be viewed as something shameful. What is shameful is that the offering of such an apology, or even the contemplation of such an offer, should be construed as constituting a smear on one's character and a betrayal of one's patriotic duty.
If it comes to a parent's attention that their child has thrown a rock through a neighbors window, intentionally or accidentally, the parent marches the child over to the neighbors home to claim responsibility, offer an apology, and make amends by paying to have the window replaced. Perhaps the child must forfeit a portion of his weekly allowance until the window is paid in full. Or maybe the child must do odd jobs for his neighbor until his earned wages are sufficient to cover the window's replacement. However this gets worked out, the point here is that anyone raised with any sense of justice, morality, and civic responsibility, knows very well that when a wrongful act is committed, intentionally or otherwise, an apology is in order. And not just an apology. One must also make amends for the wrong that has been done.