Hope and frustration over the Peace Memorial Ceremony

by Noritaka Egusa, Editor and Senior Staff Writer

When a world without nuclear weapons is realized, August 6, 2010 should be remembered as a turning point in history. A representative from the United States, the nation which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, came to Hiroshima for the first time to mourn the victims of the atomic bombing at the ceremony where prayers are made for nuclear abolition and a peaceful world. Though the U.S. representative remained silent during the ceremony, there is great significance in the fact of his attendance.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke passionately about the need for nuclear abolition at several occasions, including at an address he made to the public after the ceremony. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan worked hard to project an air of difference with regard to his administration through various activities, such as a meeting with A-bomb survivors. In contrast with the speeches at the ceremony made by these two, no remarks were made by U.S. Ambassador John Roos. He sat without expression during the ceremony, and left the city soon after without comment.

His silence conveys the state of affairs in the United States surrounding the atomic bombings, which has not changed for the past 65 years.

As family members of the late crew of the B-29 bomber which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima quickly expressed displeasure over the decision to dispatch the ambassador to the ceremony, the justification that the bombings brought the war to a quick end, saving the lives of many American soldiers, is still deeply-rooted in the United States. This argument, though, is thoroughly at odds with the appeal of the A-bombed city that such evil should never be repeated. That great gap between the two views made it impossible for the U.S. ambassador to speak.

From this silent stance the great length of time that has passed since the bombing can be keenly felt. Why has there never been frank communication between government representatives of the United States, the nation which dropped the bomb, and the A-bomb survivors? Has the human tragedy that was wrought under the mushroom cloud, not simply the terrible might of the bomb itself, been fully conveyed to the world and to the nation which dropped that bomb on Hiroshima?

The idea of "special antinuclear envoys," as proposed by Prime Minister Kan on the 65th anniversary of the bombing, can be appreciated in the sense of conveying the voices of A-bomb survivors to the world. Mr. Kan, however, made comments affirming his administration's policy of nuclear deterrence. Rather than forcing A-bomb survivors, whose average age is close to 77, to travel abroad, hasn't the government more proactive and ambitious plans for promoting nuclear abolition? Isn't it time that the A-bombed nation stepped up to give serious consideration to abandoning the U.S. nuclear umbrella, which Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba called for in his Peace Declaration?

After 65 years, we have at last witnessed the presence of a U.S. government representative at the ceremony, as well as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's commitment to nuclear abolition. The fact that we have managed to reach this point is deeply moving. But the feeling of elation quickly gives way to frustration.

(Originally published on August 7, 2010)