Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Will a US president ever apologize?: 70th Hiroshima Anniversary

“Will an American president ever offer a formal apology? 

Will US ever regret the dropping of “Little Boy” and “Fat Man,” those two bombs that burned hotter than the sun?”

So writes Christian Appy on the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima holocaust, the beginning of the atomic age.

The atomic bomb at Hiroshima, and at Nagasaki three days later on August 9, 1945 by a conservative estimate killed more than 250,000 people. Thousands of victims were vaporized; tens of thousands more incinerated; unimaginable shockwaves and firestorms ravaged miles and miles beyond ground zero. The “black rain” spread radiation and killed even more people—slowly and painfully, writes Appy whose new book “American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity” has hit the stands.

Appy writes that to expect an apology from United States could only be a fool’s dream. President Harry Truman, whose express orders led to Hiroshima and Nagasaki destruction, held this opinion on apology: “Never, never waste a minute on regret. It’s a waste of time.”

In 1988, the US Navy shot down an Iranian civilian airliner over the Persian Gulf killing all 290 passengers, including 66 children. Vice-president George H.W. Bush, then running for president, proclaimed: “I will never apologize for the United States. Ever. I don’t care what the facts are.”

Appy is both sharp and laconic on the matter. “The very politician who criticize other countries for not owning up their wrong-doing regularly insist that we should never apologize for anything.”

President Truman indeed said so in a White House radio address that “the world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base.” He did not mention that the second atomic bomb had already been dropped on Nagasaki.

In reality, Hiroshima was chosen because it was one of only a handful of Japanese cities that had not been firebombed or obliterated by American air power. Further, the US officials wanted to check out the extent of new weapon’s power by selecting the “virgin targets.” As for their opinion on Japanese, a remark by Admiral William “Bull” Halsey in a 1944 press conference sufficed: “The only good Jap is a Jap who’s been dead six months.”

And what about modern times? Nine countries today have nuclear arsenals which number more than 15,000 and could obliterate countless Earths.  The NATO budget is over $900 billion compared to Russia’s $80 billion.  US plans to spend a trillion dollars over the next three decades on its weapons programme.

If modest nuclear powers, India (110 nuclear warheads) and Pakistan (120 of them) were to release just part of their arsenals in a South Asian nuclear exchange, the planet would enter “nuclear winter” and humanity would be over. As definitely, as dinosaurs were wiped out by that asteroid 65 million years ago.

Apocalypse was—and remains—us.

In case you wish to revisit the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and don’t want to be lulled into false sense of security of modern times, the new book by Susan Southard, “Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War” being released this week is highly recommended.

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