Despite the fact that the mainstream media — and, for that matter, a lot of online media as well — have been abuzz with reports about President Barack Obama’s Friday visit to Hiroshima, Japan, two important facts about his visit there went completely unmentioned by both the president and his allies in the liberal press.
The former is, of course, not surprising, as this president has a habit of revealing only what he wants people to know and ignoring the rest of facts, no matter how important they might be to a understanding the actual truth.
The latter isn’t much more shocking, but it is more frightening.
First, let’s be clear. Despite what his defenders on the left have been saying, President Barack Obama certainly apologized for America’s dropping of two nuclear bombs on Japan to end World War II in 1945.
The media won’t tell you that; Snopes even went so far as to “debunk” claims in conservative media and memes that Obama had apologized. Their reasoning: He didn’t use the words “apology” or “sorry.”
By that reasoning, Japan never actually surrendered in the first place, since Emperor Hirohito never used the words “surrender” or “defeat” in his famous Aug. 15, 1945, speech that ended, for the most part, the fighting in the Pacific. All he said was that World War II “did not turn in Japan’s favor.”
Charles Krauthammer probably put it best:
“And to say it wasn’t a form of apology, of course he wasn’t going to use the word. And yes, he did speak about war in the abstract, but he did it in Hiroshima. If you want to do a speech about war in the abstract, you do it in Prague, which is what he did in 2009. When you do it in Hiroshima, of course you’re talking about World War II, of course you’re talking about America dropping the (bomb), and of course the implication is that we have some sort of guilt about it, if not an overt apology … The president speaking as president was representing the United States.
“I thought it was embarrassing utopianism and the implicit apology dishonored our nation,” he concluded.
But as bad as that was, there was another lie — this one a lie of omission — that Obama and the mainstream media are foisting off on us. It, too, deserves exposure.
The second lie has to do with the necessity of dropping two atomic bombs on Japan in the first place. Obama made no mention of it at all, and unfortunately even most conservative media haven’t done much better.
The knee-jerk reaction by many has been to say, essentially, “Well, they started it.” As if an attack by Japan on a military target that resulted in a little over 2,000 deaths in itself justified the killing of roughly 140,000 people, mostly civilians, a few years later.
What never seems to be explained adequately is that Japan would never have surrendered were it not for the demonstration by American forces that the face of warfare had changed forever, and not to Japan’s benefit.
That was necessitated by a too-often overlooked aspect of Japan’s military culture — the unwillingness to dishonor themselves by surrendering.
Although some Japanese soldiers in World War II were captured, most either fought to the death or committed suicide to avoid the dishonor of surrender. For example, though 30,000 Japanese soldiers and a similar number of civilians were stationed on Saipan, virtually no soldiers were taken prisoner. Moreover, 22,000 civilians also died.
A combination of factors led to this culture in Japan, not the least of which was the ancient military heritage of the Japanese samurai as codified as the “bushido.” “Hagakure,” the most definitive source of the samurai code, begins with a simple sentence: “Bushido is a way of dying.”
That pretty much sums it up right there.
Many soldiers — and particularly their leaders — also remembered the prisoners of war who had been returned from the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. Those men had not been honored; they were more like outcasts.
In fact, that national memory probably had something to do with Gen. Tojo’s command in 1941: “Do not live in shame as a prisoner. Die, and leave no ignominious crime behind you.”
And, to be honest, it probably didn’t help when Adm. William Halsey, commanding American naval forces in the South Pacific, adopted the unofficial motto, “Kill Japs, kill Japs, kill more Japs.” Faced with an enemy chanting a similar slogan, most of us probably wouldn’t be too quick to entrust ourselves into their care.
The bushido code helps explain (but not excuse) why the Japanese treated American POWs so harshly in World War II — they considered such men, who had allowed themselves to be taken prisoner rather than die fighting or end their own lives — to be without honor.
It also helps us understand why, even after having been hit with two atomic weapons (note that Japan failed to surrender after the first one) killing hundreds of thousands, Hirohito still found himself largely unable to admit defeat.
Instead, he encouraged his people to “endure the unendurable and bear the unbearable,” by which he was not referring to the 14 years of war that had killed nearly three million Japanese, but to peace without victory.
Anyone, left or right, who revels in having killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese (and wounding many more) with two atomic bombs probably has something wrong with them.
But anyone who thinks that those bombs didn’t save uncountable lives on both sides of the conflict, as Barack Obama apparently does, simply doesn’t know his history.
George Upper is the managing editor of Conservative Tribune. His weekly column, “The Upper Cut,” appears each Tuesday morning. In addition to sharing it on social media, you can also connect with him on Facebook or on Twitter @georgeupper.