Seventy years ago today, the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Just three days earlier Hiroshima had suffered the same fate. The debate over the necessity of dropping these bombs on continues to be highly contentious and divisive. Despite the fact that there has been a growing body of evidence that challenges the standard narrative (see below) of these events, this comforting narrative shows no sign of abating in public memory. Since I’ve already addressed this topic in a previous post, I’d like to address a related, but very important issue brought up by Christian Appy.
He challenges to consider these questions:
“Will an American president ever offer a formal apology? Will our country ever regret the dropping of ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat Man,’ those two bombs that burned hotter than the sun? Will it absorb the way they instantly vaporized thousands of victims, incinerated tens of thousands more, and created unimaginably powerful shockwaves and firestorms that ravaged everything for miles beyond ground zero? Will it finally come to grips with the ‘black rain’ that spread radiation and killed even more people — slowly and painfully — leading in the end to a death toll for the two cities conservatively estimated at more than 250,000?”
Appy concedes, and I agree, that any kind of apology is unlikely in the foreseeable future given current politics. But the issue is too important not to discuss.
Even if there was some agreement on the morality of the bombings, there is another hurdle to overcome before we can ever get to an apology. There is a widespread belief that apologies are for the weak. This is unfortunate. In reality, apologies show a strength of character that is hard to find among leaders today. An exception is Pope Francis, who has improved the standing of the Catholic Church by apologizing for the “past sins” of the church. (e.g. Bolivia)
In 1995, the Japanese Prime Minister apologized for their war crimes, as he should have. But the current Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has done much to undermine the good will that was achieved by these apologies, to the detriment of Japan’s relationships with South Korea and China.
Apologies go a long way towards healing relationships between victim(s) and the wrongdoer. It is not only the right thing to do; it goes a long way towards creating amicable relationships. Therefore, it would be in our interest to apologize. An apology would also go a long way in improving our image in the world.
Read Appy’s informative and thoughtful essay on this topic here: History News Network | Our ‘Merciful’ Ending to the ‘Good War’.
Standard narrative: The U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the war quickly and save American lives. Part of this narrative is the claim that the Japanese were warned and that the cities were military targets.