Friday, September 5, 2008

Pelosi and Hiroshima

"House speakers of Group of Eight countries, who were in Hiroshima for their annual summit, laid flowers Tuesday at the memorial monument for victims of the city's atomic bombing in 1945.

"As the G-8 legislative heads were about to leave the ceremony, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned to the monument again and made the sign of the cross on her chest.

"We wonder what went through her mind at that moment. Did she pray for the repose of the 140,000 people who perished in the nuclear blast? How did she feel about the fact that her own country dropped the atomic bomb?

"Pelosi's presence made her the highest-ranking U.S. politician to visit Hiroshima since U.S. forces leveled the city, ushering in the nuclear age.

"There is a deep gulf between Japan and the United States as to how the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should be viewed.

"Japan and the United States, now bound by a bilateral security treaty, congratulate themselves on having an "alliance based on shared values."

"But unhealed wounds of war and history continue to haunt relations between the two countries.

"The U.S. government's position is that the atomic bombings hastened Japan's surrender, thereby saving many lives, both American and Japanese.

"But in this country, the general perception among the public is that Japan would have surrendered before long even if it had not suffered nuclear devastation. Also, Japanese people generally think it is unforgivable, from a humanitarian point of view, to use a weapon that indiscriminately kills civilians and causes serious radiation illnesses among survivors.

"The Japanese government, however, has deliberately adopted a vague position on the issue to avoid hurting the crucial alliance with Washington. It has argued that the use of nuclear weapons cannot be categorically defined as a violation of international law.

"The sensitive nature of the issue's implications for bilateral relations was highlighted last summer by then Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma, who said the dropping of the atomic bombs by the United States in the closing days of World War II "could not be helped." Kyuma's remarks inaccurately represented the U.S. position and blatantly disregarded the sufferings of A-bomb victims.

"One year on, Japan's Lower House Speaker Yohei Kono chaired the annual meeting of his G-8 counterparts, which was held in Hiroshima at his initiative. By doing so, Kono didn't try to raise the question of who is to blame for the unprecedented disaster. Rather, he tried to set the stage for serious debate on nuclear arms reduction based on a clear and unflinching recognition of the fact that human beings used an inhuman weapon against their own kind.

"After the conference, Pelosi issued a brief statement to the effect that her visit to Hiroshima forcefully reminded her of the destructive power of a war and convinced her that it is an urgent challenge for all nations to promote peace and build a better world.

"She apparently attempted, from her own position, to respond to Kono's effort.

"There is inevitably a disappointment among A-bomb victims. The U.S. House speaker offered no apology for the bombings. Pelosi's visit raised no fresh hope for a major change in U.S. nuclear arms policy or for a new American initiative toward eliminating nuclear arms from the Earth.

"Still, we think Pelosi's visit to Hiroshima has huge significance, given that a great majority of Americans believe the atomic bombings were justified.

"Pelosi is regarded as particularly liberal among Democrats and keen to promote nuclear disarmament. But she visited Hiroshima as the representative of the U.S. House. Her visit to the city may cause her to be bitterly criticized by the U.S. public. We applaud her for showing great courage and integrity by going to Hiroshima.

"Debate on the meanings of historical events tends to degenerate into a fruitless argument, often because of nationalistic feelings on both sides. Instead of simplistic black-and-white arguments, we need serious efforts to understand the pain felt by the other side.

"We hope the sign of the cross Pelosi made in front of the A-bomb monument will be remembered as a sign of new U.S. willingness to do so."

By Editorial (Asahi Shimbun, 9/5/2008), Link to article (last visited 9/5/2008)

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