This week there is much MSM buzz about John Kerry's "historic" visit to Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park. Kerry is the first U.S. Secretary of State to tour the site although ex President Jimmy Carter—after leaving office—and ex Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi—while holding office—both have been there.
One curious point accompanying virtually every mention of Kerry's visit emphasizes that his tour is no U.S. apology. That emphasis presumably is to pacify Republican critics and to appease uninformed U.S. masses remaining unaware that the Truman Administration's narrative claiming "necessity" for the two atomic bombings largely has been debunked. Truman's claim that Hiroshima was strictly a military target was especially ludicrous. Almost all the fatalities were civilian. Decades later Howard Zinn showed us that General Marshall suggested giving the Japanese warning about the bomb so that people could be removed. Nonetheless ruthlessness and callousness prevailed.
Most contemporary Japanese know the score, as did Ike and Admiral Leahy: " ... the use of this barbarous weapon ... was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender". And as quoted by Professor Zinn the War Department's own Strategic Bombing Survey eventually confirmed that " ... in all probability ... Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped ... and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated".
But war is not about surrender. It is about creating conditions favorable to national policy interests—in this case showcasing undeniable supremacy in a visible fashion worldwide. Zinn showed us how "the Truman Administration ... presented the Soviet Union not just as a rival but an immediate threat" and also noted British scientist P.M.S. Blackett's well-supported assertion that dropping the bomb was "the first major operation of the cold diplomatic war with Russia". And so it continues today, with Russia presented as the immediate threat.
In any case John Kerry was moved by the Japanese memorial and was quoted like this in the LA Times "It is a stunning display, it is a gut-wrenching display ..; it tugs at all of your sensibilities as a human being, it reminds everybody of the extraordinary complexity of choices in war and of what war does to people, to communities, to countries, to the world". Nonetheless neither apologies nor curtailment of war are expected anytime soon. Diplomacy and detente traditionally play second fiddles to propaganda at the U.S. State Department where might makes right logic has always prevailed.
In May President Obama is making what is billed as his final trip to Japan as POTUS. One can only hope that his itinerary will include both Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the war memorials located in both cities. However unlikely one can also hope that apologies for barbarism might be forthcoming too. No individual or nation has ever begun to improve without first recognizing the need for change.