In his much-praised Hiroshima speech, President Obama appropriately avoided a formal apology for America’s decision to drop the atom bomb. Yet his soaring rhetoric strongly implied moral equivalency between the United States and Japan in taking responsibility for the suffering of the war. In fact, no such equivalency exists: the Japanese decision to attack Pearl Harbor was meant to begin a war, while America’s choice to use atomic weapons served to end the war and stop the killing as quickly as possible.
The President said “we come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not-so-distant past.” That “force” wasn’t a new kind of weapon, and it wasn’t unleashed by the United States. It was the evil force of Japanese imperialism and German Hitlerism. It was only through total, crushing victory of the Allies that we purged that “terrible force” from the world, and transformed the great nations of Japan and Germany into the civilized societies they are today.