Last Monday (Apr. 15), the editorial board of The Washington Post took notice of President Obama’s upcoming trip to Japan and called for him to visit Hiroshima where, almost 71 years ago, an atomic bomb was dropped by U.S. forces to end the war with Japan.
“The bombings of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945,” The Post board writes, “and of Nagasaki three days later remain one of the most horrific chapters in the history of warfare, unleashing merciless blasts of heat and radiation. The atomic bombs brought an end to the war with Japan but also ushered in a nuclear age that left all in dread of another mushroom cloud.
“Survivors of the attacks, and the Japanese people more broadly, resolved to turn the horror into a warning, and they have borne witness ever since to the uniquely barbaric nature of nuclear arms. It would be fitting for Mr. Obama to pay tribute to their dedication. He can do so without passing judgment on President Truman’s decision to use the bomb, and without interfering in Japan’s internal debate over the proper role for its non-nuclear military establishment in an increasingly dangerous region.
“The reality is that nuclear weapons are not going away soon. They are woven into the fabric of the Atlantic alliance and the security umbrella the United States extends to allies Japan and South Korea. But at Hiroshima, Mr. Obama could examine the unfulfilled ambitions of his Prague speech in 2009, a nuclear agenda that brought him the Nobel Peace Prize, and describe how arsenals could be reduced. The agreement to head off Iran’s nuclear program needs to be monitored vigilantly — and matched with respect to North Korea’s rogue program. Russia and the United States possess the largest nuclear arsenals on the planet; verifiable, binding agreements to reduce their size should remain a goal. The Nunn-Lugar program showed it is possible, working together, to lock up stray nuclear materials. Even China, long secretive about its nuclear programs, has been showing new interest in cooperation on nuclear security.
“Mr. Obama might fear that critics will distort the meaning of a trip to Hiroshima,” The Post continues. “But his presence and his words would draw attention to the difficult challenges ahead. He also could counter the reckless remarks of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who suggested that Japan and South Korea might consider starting their own nuclear weapons programs. Seven decades without a nuclear weapon being used in combat or terrorism is remarkable; it will take dedication to ensure this record continues.”
“Everyone should visit Hiroshima, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “and everyone means everyone.”
Those are the rational arguments, the intellectual as well as the ethical considerations that Obama should consider.
Since 1982, founder and president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, David Krieger and individuals and organizations from around the world have been advocating for the abolition of all nuclear weapons on the planet – Nuclear Zero, they call it. In an open letter to President Obama, Krieger made a very simple, straightforward plea that speaks to the heart as well as the head:
It is a beautiful, bustling city.
It will change your view of the world.
You will realize viscerally what nuclear weapons do to people.
John Kerry called it “gut-wrenching.”
It is that and more.
It is a city of warning and Hope.
It teaches lessons that can’t be learned in a classroom.
Civilization is at risk. Humanity is at risk.
All we love and treasure is at risk.
Nuclear weapons must be abolished before they abolish us.
Visit Hiroshima with Peace in your heart.
The people of Hiroshima have already forgiven us.
Visit Hiroshima with determination to end the nuclear weapons era.
Be bold. Take action. Realize your dreams.
This is your chance. Seize it. Yes, you can.
Visit Hiroshima with Hope in your heart.
Let your Hope meet that of Hiroshima.
Open the eyes of the world.
Be the leader we have been waiting for.
Reveal your plan for Nuclear Zero.
Take the first step.
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Hopefully, the president will follow the advice of his own Secretary of State. Hopefully, he will realize the value such a visit will have on all of us. Hopefully, we will see the end of all nuclear weapons in our lifetime.