Secretary of State John Kerry toured the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Museum in Japan this week, a month before he and President Obama will meet foreign ministers at the G-7 Summit. Reuters reported that he witnessed “haunting displays [of] photographs of badly burned victims, the tattered and stained clothes they wore and statues depicting them with flesh melting from their limbs.”
“It is a stunning display. It is a gut-wrenching display,” explained Kerry. “It is a reminder of the depth of the obligation every one of us in public life carries … to create and pursue a world free from nuclear weapons.” Iran would exempt itself, of course. But is this really the lesson of Hiroshima? That those in public life have an obligation to do away with nuclear weapons? A lot of people might argue that the existence of those weapons has saved lives from broader world conflicts and conventional warfare. That includes ending World War II sooner.
Last week, The Washington Post dutifully reported, “In Hiroshima, Kerry won’t apologize for atomic bombs dropped on Japan.” Technically, he didn’t. What we witnessed was one of the administration’s inverted non-apology apologies.
There’s a lot of speculation Obama will visit Hiroshima during the summit and offer some sort of apology. (If we’re to believe WikiLeaks, U.S. officials have been wrestling with the idea of having Obama apologize for the Hiroshima attacks for a while now.) Doing so would comport well with his history, but it would not be a great leap for Obama. Having a high-ranking American official visit the museum already lends credence to the Japanese notion that the U.S. bombing was gratuitous. On top of that, Kerry blames nuclear weapons — rather than Japan’s fanaticism and nihilism — for Hiroshima.