Obama and the absence of apology in Hiroshima

Obama and the absence of apology in Hiroshima

24 May 2016

Author: Tessa Morris-Suzuki, ANU

‘As President of the United States of America, I express my profound apologies for the sufferings inflicted on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the atomic bombings’. These, of course, are the words that we are not going to hear Barack Obama speak in Hiroshima on 27 May, when he becomes the first sitting US president to visit the city since the atomic bombings in August 1945. It is sad that we will not hear at least a version of these words. A simple but sincere apology might bring some peace of mind to the survivors and their families, and could have a profound effect on Japanese society.

The forces that shaped Japan’s postwar history created a situation where the United States has never apologised, and the Japanese government has been ambivalent about memorialising the atomic bombings. This uneasy relationship with the memory of the bombings is surely one reason why Japan has such difficulty in apologising sincerely for its own past aggression. The deep sense of unassuaged victimhood left by the bombings feeds a reluctance among many (though not all) Japanese to acknowledge their country’s own role as an aggressor. An apology from the US president might help to dissolve that feeling of victimhood. It could also provide a model for reconciliation between Japan and its neighbours.

Read the full article on East Asia Forum

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