Hiroshima re­vis­ited

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS - Shahid M Amin

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:shahid_m_amin@hot­mail.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.

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