vivors of the 1945 attack, dubbed as hibakusha, who were in their 70s and 80s, and he embraced one survivor. Accompanied by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Obama placed a floral wreath at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. In a speech, Obama recalled: “On a bright, cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed. A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possesses the means to destroy itself.” He asked: “Why did we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in the not so distant past. We come to mourn the dead. Their souls speak to us, they ask to look inward, take stock of who we are.” Paying tribute to the people of Hiroshima, Obama called on mankind “to learn the lessons of the past to make war less likely.” He urged the world to “choose a future when Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not considered the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.”
An old Japanese survivor of the Hiroshima bombing reminded Obama of his responsibility to act on his pledge, made in 2009 at Prague, to bring about a world without nuclear weapons. Obama declared that “technological progress without equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of the atom requires a moral revolution as well.” The memory of Hiroshima “must never fade since it fuels our imagination. It allows us to change.”
Two questions arise from Obama’s visit to Hiroshima. Firstly, what was the US justification for the use of the atom bomb? The decision Email:email@example.com was made by President Harry Truman who had taken over only five months ago, following the death of President F.D. Roosevelt. Truman was considered a lightweight as against his distinguished predecessor. American scientists had perfected the nuclear bomb about that time and the issue of its use was placed before Truman. Together with his military advisers, he pondered over two alternatives to secure Japanese surrender. How long would the war continue if the atom bomb was not used; and how long would it continue if the atom bomb was used? The war-front situation at the time was that Japan was still in occupation of Indonesia, Malaya, Burma, Indo-China, Korea and vast territories in China.
The Japanese people and government were determined to carry on the war to defend mainland Japan and to protect the Emperor who had a god-like status. Experts agreed that, eventually, Japan would be defeated through existing war methods, as Germany already had been, but only after millions more, both on the Japanese side as well on the side of Allies, would have died, apart from immense economic costs in continuation of the war. The other alternative before Truman was to use the atom bomb, with all its horrors, in the expectation that it will bring an immediate Japanese surrender, which did actually happen within a week. In this alternative, far fewer Japanese died: and Japan was never physically invaded and destroyed. For this reasoning, Truman explained he had opted for the atomic alternative. The fact that Japan has ever since remained a close US ally suggests that the Japanese people also reconciled themselves to the lesser evil viz. use of the atom bomb to end the war quickly. At Hiroshima, Obama highlighted the “extraordinary alliance” between the US and Japan during seven decades since the end of the Second World War.
Incidentally, during Obama’s visit, China and South Korea endorsed the correctness of the US decision to use the atom bomb against Japan in 1945. The staterun “China Daily” said the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified as “a bid to bring an early end to the war and prevent protracted warfare from claiming even more lives.” But China and South Korea do not believe that any apology needs to be made to Japan for use of the atom bomb, since Japan had carried out so many atrocities during the War.
The second issue arising from Obama’s visit to Hiroshima is whether nuclear bombs should be banned. This seems morally justified as it is a weapon of mass destruction. But the geostrategic reality is that it is the nuclear deterrent that has kept the peace in the world. During the long Cold War between the US and Soviet blocs, war never erupted because both sides knew that they would destroy each other and the rest of the world. Since the 1980s, the nuclear deterrent has also prevented war between Pakistan and India. As the smaller country, Pakistan cannot afford to let go of its nuclear deterrent. But it has been aptly said that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Nuclear weapons must only be viewed as weapons of defence. — The writer served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the ex-Soviet Union, France, Nigeria and Libya.