World lead­ers face the risks in rec­on­cil­ing with past en­e­mies

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion can be tricky. It took 70 years for an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent to visit the site of the US atomic bomb­ing of Hiroshima, and nearly 75 for a Ja­panese leader to an­nounce he would visit Pearl Har­bor, as Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe did Mon­day. Abe is likely to re­ceive a warm reception later this month at the memo­rial for more than 2,300 Amer­i­cans who died in the Ja­panese at­tack on the Hawai­ian naval base. That hasn’t al­ways been the case for other world lead­ers vis­it­ing sim­i­lar sites, par­tic­u­larly when mem­o­ries are fresher.

Rea­gan in Bit­burg

US Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan and Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Hel­mut Kohl stirred a global out­cry in May 1985 when the Amer­i­can leader vis­ited a Ger­man mil­i­tary ceme­tery that in­cluded the re­mains of 49 mem­bers of Adolf Hitler’s Waf­fen SS troops. Rea­gan stuck to his prom­ise to visit the ceme­tery in Bit­burg de­spite a tor­rent of crit­i­cism from Jewish groups, US vet­er­ans and oth­ers. He added a stop at the Ber­genBelsen con­cen­tra­tion camp to his trip. Kohl de­fended the in­vi­ta­tion as a “demon­stra­tive ges­ture of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.”

Clin­ton in Viet­nam

US Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton re­ceived a rock-star wel­come in Viet­nam in Novem­ber 2000. Clin­ton was the first Amer­i­can pres­i­dent to visit af­ter the Viet­nam War, which ended in 1975 and claimed the lives of more than 3 mil­lion Viet­namese and 58,000 Amer­i­can sol­diers. Clin­ton re­mains pop­u­lar in Viet­nam be­cause the United States nor­mal­ized re­la­tions with its for­mer foe in 1995 while he was pres­i­dent. Re­la­tions were com­pletely nor­mal­ized in May with US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama an­nounc­ing the lift­ing of a ban on weapons sales to Viet­nam dur­ing his visit to the coun­try.

Ah­madine­jad in Iraq

Iran’s hard-line Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad vis­ited Iraq in March 2008, be­com­ing the first leader to travel there af­ter the two bor­der­ing na­tions fought a bloody war that killed 1 mil­lion peo­ple in the 1980s. His visit came five years af­ter a US-led in­va­sion top­pled Iraqi leader Sad­dam Hus­sein, who started the 1980s con­flict. The in­flu­ence of Iran in Iraq has grown in the time since, with Ira­nian backed Shi­ite mili­tias now lead­ing the fight in some bat­tle­fields against the ex­trem­ist Is­lamic State group.

Vu­cic in Sre­brenica

Anger boiled over in July 2015 when Ser­bian Prime Min­is­ter Alek­san­dar Vu­cic at­tended a com­mem­o­ra­tion 20 years af­ter the slaugh­ter of Mus­lims in Sre­brenica, Bos­nia-Herze­gov­ina. Tens of thou­sands came to mark the an­niver­sary of Europe’s worst mas­sacre since World War II, the killing of 8,000 Mus­lims by Bos­nian Serbs. Vu­cic, once an ultra-na­tion­al­ist, came to rep­re­sent Ser­bia at the com­mem­o­ra­tion in an ap­par­ent ges­ture of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. Thou­sands booed and whis­tled as he en­tered the ceme­tery to lay flow­ers. Protesters threw wa­ter bot­tles and other ob­jects as he hastily left. His glasses were bro­ken, but there were no se­ri­ous in­juries.

Obama in Hiroshima

US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama risked crit­i­cism at home when he de­cided to visit the memo­rial to the 140,000 killed in the atomic bomb­ing of Hiroshima in World War II. Ja­panese gen­er­ally wel­comed his visit and praised his speech, which called on hu­mankind to pre­vent war and pur­sue a world with­out nu­clear weapons. He didn’t apol­o­gize for the bomb­ing, and Ja­pan didn’t ask for an apol­ogy. Just vis­it­ing Hiroshima would have been po­lit­i­cally dif­fi­cult, if not im­pos­si­ble, for pre­vi­ous US pres­i­dents to do.—AP

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