The Inconvenient Truth of America's Nuclear Madness
Part I: The Atomic Bombing of Japan
"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever." - Thomas Jefferson
Several months ago right-wing media made much of a Wikileaks-released diplomatic cable claimed 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 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.
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 conservative right-wing media assumed Obama's guilt, the left-leaning liberal media came to his defense, and the mainstream media 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 contemplating such an apology, 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.
Let's be charitable and say that the vast majority of us know this. How is it, then, that in the minds of a great many Americans, perhaps even a large majority, America's behavior in the community of nations is somehow seen as constituting an exception to this common knowledge
Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, believes that America should never apologize for anything that it does. Though he acknowledges that America has made mistakes, he makes it quite clear that those mistakes should never be cause for an apology: "I will never, ever apologize for America." Romney has even written a book with this unrepentant, haughty celebration of wrongdoing as its centerpiece: No Apology: The Case for American Greatness .
Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), speaking at a Conservative political Action Conference, says that we should "never, ever, ever" apologize for anything America has done, is doing, or might do in the future.
Former Governor of Alaska and one-time vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, marked her departure from office with the following appeal to a crowd of well-wishers: "Let us continue to love our country, be proud of our country, never apologize for our country." We are asked to believe that love of country and pride in our national heritage are somehow indissolubly linked to an arrogant and disdainful rejection of the most basic of moral requirements.
George H.W. Bush, while campaigning for President, promised that he will "never apologize for the United States. Ever. I don't care what the facts are." Yes, you heard that right. He doesn't care what the facts are. America may have erred -- America may have violated every moral precept there is -- but there will be no apologies. Bush bases this morally deficient declaration on the belief that America is "the only hope for freedom and democracy" in the world. How the latter, even if true, serves to justify the former is anybody's guess.
How utterly bizarre all this is. In the minds of these political hacks, America's perceived greatness confers upon it immunity from accountability for its moral transgressions, no matter how grotesquely barbaric those transgressions may be. But what is particularly disturbing about this mindset is that it is very likely shared with the great majority of Americans.
Politicians, by nature, are publicity hounds. They run their lives as though it were a popularity contest. Approval, acceptance, and the status quo, are the standards against which everything they think, say, and do, are measured. They wouldn't make the kind of absurdly obnoxious and repugnantly immoral public statements quoted above unless they had good reason to believe that the majority of Americans shared their sentiments. They make these kinds of statements because doing so plays well in the polls.