The Speech Obama should give at Hiroshima
[President Obama will become the first sitting American president to visit the city Hiroshima this coming May 27. The president is expected to deliver a speech on nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will join Obama on the visit. This is his speech he should give.]
On August 6, 1945 the city of Hiroshima in Japan became the target of the first atomic bomb ever detonated in combat. Three days later, Nagasaki was devastated by a nuclear bomb. Within the first months after the bombings some 1000,000 to 150,000 people died in Hiroshima and 40,000 to 80,000 in Nagasaki. Radiation affected generations to come. Our armed forces brought utter destruction to these cities.
Our political and military leaders proclaimed that they had dropped them in order to avoid a costly invasion of Japan’s home islands, saving hundreds of thousands of American lives, and millions of Japanese lives. That explanation has come under criticism.
For the generation who fought the “War” and their families there is nothing to revisit- much less to apologize for.
I fear that I would fail to convince anyone to follow a more balanced approach when it comes to whether the U.S. should’ve dropped the bombs, or whether the United States should apologize for it. But this is not why we are here.
I don’t mean to bore you with a long history lesson- my dear friend Dr. Harry Franqui-Rivera is in charge of that.
But I do want to you to understand the lesson we learned in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Second World War was the first global and total war. We are all guilty of atrocities and crimes during that war. By the war’s end tens of millions had been killed, murdered, executed in the most gruesome and cruelest of ways.
We learned the unparalleled and unmatched capacity of the human race for injustice, cruelty, coldness, and indifference. We saw it in concentration camps in Nazi Germany, in prisoner camps in Japanese occupied territories, and we saw it in internment camps in the United States of America, when we unjustly incarcerated our own citizens for they look like they enemy.
We witnessed our scientists decoding the secrets of the universe and we turned their knowledge into weapons of mass destruction with the objective of finishing the war as soon as possible, winning the war at all costs.
The nuclear bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki shocked the world, as they should have had. Even if they were the logical extension of conventional bombing strategy- as practiced by all major belligerents in WWII- they shocked us. They shocked us because they were clear and irrefutable evidence of the horror we could visit upon our fellow human beings. And they shocked us because of the casual nature of it all.
The bombs put us in a nuclear arms race even as we understood the madness of it all. But we could not stop.
We have to stop. In the past we made pacts with the Soviet Union- even as we continued to be rivals- to reduce our nuclear arsenals, to prevent proliferation. No one can win a nuclear war. And no cause, as just as it may be, will benefit from dropping a nuclear bomb in a country and obliterating hundreds of thousands if not millions of people with one strike.
I stand here today to announce that the United States of America will unilaterally reduce its nuclear arsenal and its intercontinental ballistic missiles. I’m here to invite the world nuclear powers to join us in reducing nuclear weapons, in stopping nuclear proliferation and in incentivizing nations seeking to develop nuclear weapons into not following that path.
I stand here today to tell our allies in the region that they do not have to live under the nuclear specter. I stand here today to assure those seeking to gain political clout by developing nuclear weapons and threatening their neighbors, that they will get nothing from this but further isolation. That there is an alternate path, a peaceful road to rejoining the rest of the world and prosper.
We have to refocus and look at the other lessons we learned during World War II and from dropping the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We need to remember and be inspired by the human capacity to stand up to tyranny and to face fear during our darkest hours. We need to remember the Polish farmer that would go into the woods in the middle of the night to rescue survivors from a common grave- not only risking his life but his whole family. We need to remember the Japanese civilians who would take pity on American prisoners of war and tried to alleviate their plight.
Most of all, we need to remember those tragic days in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and be honest and show our regret for the lives lost those days. And, we need to remember the spirit of cooperation, the friendship that grew between Japan and the United States shortly after the war and that continues to this day. From mortal enemies to allies and friends.