The site of the world's worst atomic bomb attack echoed with choirs of schoolchildren and the solemn ringing of bells Friday as Hiroshima marked its biggest memorial yet and the first to be attended by the U.S. and other major nuclear powers.
I just hate hyperbole. Japan has been the only recipient of nuclear bombs in war-time. The city of Hiroshima was bombed on August 6th and Nagasaki was bombed three days later on August 9th. The effects were, of course, devastating. What is just as devastating is that ridiculous first line. I just don't care for it.
Washington's decision to send U.S. Ambassador John Roos to the 65th anniversary of the bombing was seen by many as potentially paving the way for President Barack Obama to visit Hiroshima — which would be unprecedented for a sitting U.S. leader.
Along with the U.S., Britain and France also made their first official appearance at the memorial, as well as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Altogether, 74 nations were represented.
China, which sent a low-ranking official in 2008, was not participating. Officials said it did not give a reason.
I can guess why the rude Chinese didn't show up (did I say that?) but don't really understand fully why other nations, including the US, made an appearance. The bombing was an act of war. If the appearance of John Roos was for some conciliatory effect than that's rather poor.
Hiroshima was careful to ensure that the memorial — while honouring the 140,000 who died on or soon after the attack on Aug. 6, 1945 — emphasized a look-forward approach, focusing not on whether the bombing was justified, a point which many Japanese dispute, but on averting a future nuclear attack.
Of course the Japanese dispute it. Perhaps they should read history books that didn't whitewash their brutal past.
Roos said the memorial was a chance to show resolve toward nuclear disarmament.
I'm sure he did. If China, Russia, North Korea, Iran and Pakistan have weapons of greater payload than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, pointing fingers at his own country is not going to help.
"Life is short, but memory is long," Ban said.
Spoken like a true UN apologist. How is that North Korea situation coming along?
Washington's decision to attend the anniversary has been welcomed by Japan's government, but has generated complex feelings among some Japanese who see the bombing as unjustified and want the United States to apologize.
"Americans think that the bombing was reasonable because it speeded up the end of the war. They try to see it in a positive way," Naomi Sawa, a 69-year-old former teacher, said after paying her respects to the dead. "But we were devastated."
Yes, I believe that was the point. When the militarists of Japan threw men in front of cannons, bombs and guns, where was the reaction of horror? It certainly didn't come from them.
The United States decided to drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki because it believed that would speed up Japan's surrender and avoid the tough battles expected to take Japan's mainland. Fears of bloody battles were heightened by Japan's intense defences of outlying islands — such as Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
Numbers always help. Of 22,785 Japanese soldiers on Iwo Jima, 21,570 died in combat or by their own hand. Only 216 were captured. That is what the Japanese were willing to do for one island. Even children were expected to fight to the death. In the face of such a culture of death, it is false piety to decry the length to which America would go to end a bloody war. I am not being sanguine about this. The atom bomb was and is a destructive force which no words can fully encompass. However, Japan's military government dragged its own people into a war it couldn't win. It sullied Japan's name with the atrocities committed in Korea, China, Indonesia, the Philippines and all over the South Pacific. It was never going to stop.
"I don't think it was necessary," she said. "We have a very different interpretation of history. But we can disagree about history and still agree that peace is what is important. That is the real lesson of Hiroshima."
Again with the interpretation of history. This moral relativist stance should be especially sickening here. Yes, peace is lovely. The Koreans did not enjoy peace when their country was annexed and their very culture stamped on. The Allied POWs were treated like filth. Not even the average Japanese citizen enjoyed peace when their own government kept it in a warlike state.
We are in danger of forgetting this pivotal moment of history because we are afraid to acknowledge some rather unpleasant truths. They should be acknowledged or all those who died will have died for nothing.