President Obama’s speech in Hiroshima is drawing criticism for seeming to cast the United States’ and Japan’s actions during World War II as morally equivalent.
Obama took the occasion of his wreath-laying ceremony at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial on Friday to enter into his oft-employed detached professorial mode. In these times, he will state both sides of an issue (frequently straw-manning one view), appearing to play the part of the neutral arbiter, and then offer his definitive judgment.
“The world war that reached its brutal end in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was fought among the wealthiest and most powerful of nations. Their civilizations had given the world great cities and magnificent art,” Obama said, apparently referencing both the Allied and Axis powers.
“Their thinkers had advanced ideas of justice and harmony and truth. And yet the war grew out of the same base instinct for domination or conquest that had caused conflicts among the simplest tribes, an old pattern amplified by new capabilities and without new constraints,” he continued.
The president went on to observe that 60 million died during the war in all manner of brutality. “Yet in the image of a mushroom cloud that rose into these skies, we are most starkly reminded of humanity’s core contradiction,” he said. In other words, the United States, by choosing to drop the atomic bombs on Japan, was just as guilty of brutality as Nazi Germany or the Japanese.
He contended the images of those mushroom clouds, which resulted in the deaths of 140,000 in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nakasaki, bringing an end to World War II, eclipse the images of the 6 million killed by the Nazis in concentration camps and the hundreds of thousands killed, brutalized and raped by the Japanese in nations throughout Asia.
The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro wrote of Obama’s speech, “In case you were wondering, at no point did Obama mention Pearl Harbor and the dead there, or the more than 100,000 Americans who lost their lives in the Pacific theater, or the half-million to one million Americans who would have had to sacrifice themselves to storm the island of Japan using conventional means.”
“Hiroshima was not a ‘mistake.’ It was a wartime decision. Pearl Harbor wasn’t a ‘mistake.’ It was an attack driven by an aggressive and imperialistic Japanese policy that also resulted in the invasion of China and the murder of 100,000 civilians there,” he added.
President Harry S. Truman, who made the call to drop the atomic bombs, said he never lost sleep because of it. In 1963, he penned a letter (see below) expressing appreciation to a columnist who supported his wartime decision and outlining some of his reasoning.
The former president noted, “You must always remember that people forget, as you said in your column, that the bombing of Pearl Harbor was done while we were at peace with Japan and trying our best to negotiate a treaty with them.”
“All you have to do is to go out and stand on the keel of the Battleship in Pearl Harbor with the 3,000 youngsters underneath it who had no chance whatever of saving their lives. That is true of two or three other battleships that were sunk in Pearl Harbor. Altogether, there were between 3,000 and 6,000 youngsters killed at that time without any declaration of war. It was plain murder,” he continued.
“I knew what I was doing when I stopped the war that would have killed a half a million youngsters on both sides if those bombs had not been dropped. I have no regrets and, under the same circumstances, I would do it again — and this letter is not confidential,” Truman concluded.
Joel Pollack, in a Breitbart column, calls on Congress to act to make clear to the president that there is no moral equivalency between Japan’s actions during World War II and the United States. “It is the inescapable duty of the Congress of the United States today to censure President Barack Obama for casting doubt on the sacrifices and motivations of the Americans who fought the Second World War — on the eve of Memorial Day, no less.”