Obama offers Hiroshima victims cynicism instead of justice

John Wight
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd L), flanked by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, greets a school girl after delivering their speeches and laying wreaths in front 
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, western Japan, 27 May 2016 © Kimimasa Mayama
If targeting the civilian population of an entire city with a nuclear bomb, and incinerating tens of thousands of men, women, and children in the process, is not worthy of an apology then ‘humanity’ has become a word without meaning.

Step forward US President Barack Obama and his statement in advance of his visit to Hiroshima that he will not apologize for the nuclear bomb dropped by the US on the city on August 6, 1945, which killed 140,000 in the initial blast and countless thousands more in the days, weeks, months, years, and decades following from its devastating after-effects.

Obama’s visit to the city comes at the end of the a weeklong tour of Vietnam and Japan, where he participated in the G7 Summit along with the leaders of Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Italy, as well as the presidents of the European Council and European Commission. The imperial arrogance conveyed in his declaration that while in Hiroshima he would not be apologizing for what counts as one of most grievous war crimes and crimes against humanity the world has seen should have come as a surprise however. Indeed, it was wholly in keeping with the tone and purpose of his tour.

On the first leg of that tour in Vietnam the President took the opportunity to lecture its leaders on the country’s poor human rights record before announcing the lifting of the US arms embargo that had been in place since 1984. During his address to the Vietnamese people in Hanoi, the President said: “Nations are sovereign, and no matter how large or small a nation may be, its sovereignty should be respected, and it territory should not be violated. Big nations should not bully smaller ones. Disputes should be resolved peacefully.”

That Obama was able to maintain a straight face as those words issued from his lips must surely count as one of the more remarkable feats of his presidency.

The President also took the opportunity in his speech to make the case for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which as with its European version (TTIP) is an insidious free trade agreement that will give multinational corporations access to every sector of the economies of those countries that sign up to it, in what constitutes an assault on national sovereignty in service to US economic growth. Workers in every country that joins will be pitched into a race to the bottom as their respective governments compete for investment by driving down wages, benefits, and employment rights.

US economic hegemony is the driver of these new agreements, with the geopolitical objective of binding Asia and Europe closer to Washington at a time when US unipolarity is being contested by China, Russia, and other BRIC countries in a way it hasn’t been in decades. It is why the overarching purpose of this Asia tour is the reassertion of US power in the region, which is why Washington has placed a major emphasis on bolstering Japan and Vietnam at a time when they are involved in an increasingly fractious territorial dispute with Beijing in the East and South China Seas.

Compounding the tension in the region is the agreement that was reached in March between Washington and its South Korean ally to deploy the Thaad anti-ballistic missile system on the Korean peninsula. While the stated purpose of the missile defense system is to meet the threat posed by North Korea, its radar extends as far as China and therefore will constitute a threat to China’s security.

Beijing’s response has been to announce its intention to deploy nuclear submarines to the Pacific for the first time; this in order to maintain its nuclear deterrence. As we see, if Obama’s purpose with his ‘pivot to Asia’ strategy was to destabilize the region then so far it has been an unqualified success.

Taken together, Obama’s Asia tour has only reaffirmed the malign presence of the US in Asia, historically and currently. The assertion that there is nothing to apologize for when it comes to Hiroshima describes the moral sickness that underpins US exceptionalism. It is not so much that Obama refuses to apologize for an event that occurred over seventy years ago it is more that no lessons have been learned in Washington from the horrors it unleashed with the dropping of the bomb.

Lessons have certainly been learned in Beijing, however, with China a country with harsh and firsthand experience of the West’s brutal exploitation of weaker nations. It is an experience the Chinese are determined will never be repeated.

On another level, there is nothing more dangerous than a lame duck President of the United States desperate to cement his legacy as his time in office winds down to an ignominious conclusion. When the day of Obama’s day of departure from the White House does arrive in a few months’ time, his presidency will go down in history as one of the most disappointing there has been in living memory, which given the competition is quite a mantle to occupy.

By 2016 the tidal wave of hope that swept him into office as the country’s first black president had long-since dissipated, replaced by the kind of cynicism that produces statements such as the one he made at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial during his much-anticipated visit. With the world looking on, Obama claimed that “we (i.e. the world) have a shared responsibility” to ensure nothing like it happens again.

There could be no greater insult to the victims of Hiroshima than this cynical attempt by the president to deflect the guilt which the US and US alone carries for this crime.

Obama’s visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial leaves both his presidency and country disgraced.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.