HIROSHIMA–Former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry says President Barack Obama should visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki “not to apologize” but to use the experience of being at ground zero of the 1945 atomic bombings as a “vehicle” for getting his message across on the inhumanity of nuclear weapons.
“An apology isn’t the issue. We want to look forward and not back, and looking forward is that we can use the example of Hiroshima as a vehicle for conveying his message that nuclear weapons should never be used again,” Perry told The Asahi Shimbun in an interview here.
Perry has launched his “20-21 project” to educate young people on nuclear issues about “what happened, and how that could affect their lives in the future.”
Perry: If he asked, I would tell him he should come. And then, if he should ask me, “What should I say when I come?” I would say, “You do not come to apologize.” Many historians argue–and I also believe–that had we not dropped the bomb, had we instead invaded Japan, there would have been perhaps one million American casualties and many, many millions of Japanese casualties, so many more would have died.
But in a sense, that is kind of missing the point because the use of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and at Nagasaki made it seem OK. It gave it legitimacy. Happily, no country, including ours, has chosen to repeat that example, so now we have gone 70 years without the use of nuclear weapons, which is good. But the danger is always there, and the precedent has been set.
Q: But why not apologize and go to the people? Is it because of the political confusion in the United States due to opposition from veterans? What is the stumbling block for Obama to just come over and say what he wants to say?
A: I said that an apology would not be appropriate because most Americans believe, and many historians all over the world believe, that in fact, the use of the atomic bombs saved the lives of millions of people. Had we gone ahead with the alternative of invading–the American military estimates–there would have been one million American casualties and many, many millions of Japanese.
In a sense, in a strictly numerical sense, the bomb saved lives. But it’s hard to think of it that way, when you see the devastation of Hiroshima and when you think of the lives lost and the lingering effects to the survivors here.
by Masato Tainaka