Hiroshima, the atomic bomb blasts and outgoing American president Obama v. presidential hopeful Donald J. Trump – what direction will the world take when it comes to nuclear peace? As the Japanese city commemorates the 71st anniversary of the atomic bomb blast that changed the world forever, questions are raised about the possible future use of nuclear weapons.
President Obama made history on May 27, 2016 as the first sitting United States president to visit the Hiroshima Peace Park memorial. In his speech on the occasion, while he stopped short of issuing an apology, Obama asked other nuclear powers to help bring the dream of a nuclear-free world to reality.
During a ceremony commemorating the atomic bomb attacks, Hiroshima mayor Kazumi Matsui asked the world’s leaders to emulate the American president and pay their own visits to the city. Mayor Matsui is quoted by Reuters.
“I once again urge the leaders of all nations to visit the A-bombed cities. As President Obama confirmed in Hiroshima, such visits will surely etch the reality of the atomic bombings in each heart.”
The ceremony began on 8:15 a.m. local time (or 23:15 GMT on Friday) – the exact time the atomic bomb was dropped – with the toll of a peace bell. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, about 50,000 people participated in the event, including official representatives of 91 countries and some of the survivors of the atomic bomb blasts.
The Atomic Bombings Of Hiroshima And Nagasaki
On the morning of August 6, 1945, the American B-29 bomber known as “Enola Gay” dropped a 9,700-pound atomic bomb dubbed “Little Boy” over the city of Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, another American B-29 bomber dropped the A-bomb known as “Fat Man” over Nagasaki. Six days after the Nagasaki atomic blast, Japan surrendered, effectively ending WWII.
As noted in a National Geographic essay, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings were largely justified in the minds of the American people, then and now. It was seen as the definitive end to the long global conflict known as the Second World War. However, the fact that nuclear weapons still exist, and Donald Trump has allegedly asked recently why an atomic bomb couldn’t be used again, points to the general lack of awareness of the real and lasting consequences of nuclear weapon use.
On August 6, some 80,000 people were killed immediately, to be followed by another 60,000 by the end of 1945. In subsequent years, radiation sickness would double the number of deaths to nearly 300,000.
Survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings are known as “hibakusha” in Japanese. They were children or young adults on August 6, 1945 when the atomic bomb was dropped on them from over 30,000 feet and their average age is now over 80. Many of their stories came to international media attention only after President Obama’s historic visit to the Hiroshima memorial on May 27 of this year, some of them documented in a New York Times piece. The survivors tell stories of suffering burns from the blast, a lifetime of illness, and premature deaths from various cancers.
To date, the two Japanese cities remain the only ones to have survived a nuclear bomb attack. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, there are just under 175,000 hibakushas still living in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1980, that number was just over 370,000.
Trump, Nukes, And The Future
While President Obama may have come away from his Hiroshima visit with a message of a nuclear-free world, it is not one echoed by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Trump has gone on the record as saying he may agree to the development of nuclear weaponry in Japan and South Korea if it would reduce American involvement in the area. North Korea has performed four tests of nuclear weaponry in the last decade, including one conducted earlier this year.
As reported by CNBC, just three days ago, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough broke the story that during a security briefing, Trump had allegedly asked repeatedly why the U.S. couldn’t simply use nuclear weapons on its enemies. It is particularly significant given the primary role the American president has in launching a nuclear strike. Though unnamed, Scarborough said on air that the source had spoken to Trump directly.
“Several months ago, a foreign policy expert on the international level went to advise Donald Trump. And three times he asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times he asked at one point if we had them why can’t we use them.”
The remarks came during an interview with former CIA Director Micheal Hayden.
The lessons of Hiroshima and the everlasting legacy of the atomic bomb have a distinctly different interpretation as seen through the eyes of current President Obama and Republican hopeful Donald Trump.
[Photo by Keystone/Getty Images]