President Obama did a terrible, awful thing today, according to war hawks. They knew it was coming because Secretary of State John Kerry did the same thing last month. What bad, un-American thing did Obama and Kerry do? They went to Hiroshima, Japan, and they visited the memorial and the museum devoted to the history of one of the two atomic bombings that led to the end of WWII.
Worse still, Kerry and Obama both admitted that dropping nuclear weapons on a city of civilians is sad. When run through Google Translate from normal human being to American political war hawk, this means they were apologizing for America and for the decision to drop the bomb.
Truth is Kerry did nothing except express a hope for peace in the future. Obama delivered a much more detailed speech. Like all presidents, he’s got his own bloody foreign policy on his hands, but his words in Hiroshima were appropriate. Vaguely bypassing the who and the when, Obama simply talked about how peace is nice, nukes are powerful and dangerous, and dang it, people in other countries are also important.
No apology. No regret for the actions of the U.S. in August 1945. The president just mentioned that human beings suffered in WWII and some 60 million of them died. These are just facts.
The hawks are indignant. Former ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton–full disclosure, I once booed him at a Students for Liberty conference–wrote a New York Post piece before the speech was released in which he tore his mustache in rage over Obama’s supposed apology tour. The conservative stalwarts at National Review wonder if Obama likes America enough to memorialize Pearl Harbor. Obama, the man who has embraced drone warfare like nobody before and has added to our countless foreign adventures overseas, is nonetheless a weasley, spineless hippie in the eyes of much of the right.
The whole apology tour business simply alludes to the fact that Obama has tried diplomacy over force sometimes, has visited nasty dictators in an attempt to build diplomatic bridges and has admitted that after 9/11 America was sometimes kind of a dick. Also, the president has noted, but did in no way apologize for, U.S. involvement in the 1953 coup against the Shah of Iran. Obama does not say sorry. He just sometimes hints that America isn’t perfect. And that’s enough to give hawks fits.
The right-wing panic over college students acting like whiny infants is not entirely baseless. But boy, that criticism is one-sided. Everyone has their sacred cows. For the left, it’s equality, anti-discrimination and other such issues (at least the left’s versions of such). For the right, however, it’s often soldiers, police, nukes and yep, the whole damn nation that are too fragile to expose to any amount of honest talk.
Nuclear weapons do pose a unique danger. Don’t these people remember the Cold War? Or their invariable hero, Ronald Reagan, the president who was so troubled by the goofy, albeit disturbing TV movie The Day After and who scaled back the nation’s nuclear weapon stockpiles? It’s almost as if this is all a partisan zero-sum game.
If Obama saying that nuking a city of civilians involves tragedy and death is so dire, how fragile must America be? If you think the bombings were correct (another debate entirely), and that America is always a force for good abroad, then why not celebrate the president’s optimistic rhetoric? What’s so goddamned triggering about a wish for peace anyway?
Originally published at Playboy.com See: https://web.archive.org/web/20170930205036/http://www.playboy.com/articles/obama-hawks-hiroshima