Debate on morality regarding Barack Obama’s Historic Visit to Hiroshima

About 71 years ago, a mushroom shaped cloud lit up the sky over Hiroshima, and three days later over Nagasaki. Some 140,000 people in the two cities died within the year, and survivors and their children faced untold suffering due to radiation poisoning.

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center left, puts his arm around Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, center right, after they and fellow G7 foreign ministers laid wreaths at the cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan. Image source: VOA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTVH4JevrdI

During what may be his last tour of Asia, President Barack Obama will make history as the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, the site where the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb in wartime.

Even before the president sets foot on what many consider hallowed ground, the announcement has sparked new debate on the decision to drop the bomb, and whether the United States should apologize or if a U.S. president should even visit.  Obama is expected to make a statement from Hiroshima, and will likely have to navigate a symbolic minefield.

Nearly 71 years ago

It was a moment that literally changed the world nearly 71 years ago when a mushroom shaped cloud lit up the sky over Hiroshima, and three days later over Nagasaki.  Some 140,000 people in the two cities died within the year, and survivors and their children have faced untold suffering due to radiation poisoning.  The U.S. rationale for the decision was to bring years of Japanese aggression to a quick end, potentially saving many more lives than would have been lost in a U.S. invasion.  But many Japanese see it differently, saying innocent men, women and children were unnecessarily incinerated and poisoned.

Secretary of State John Kerry visited Hiroshima last month.  He said he was deeply moved and that “every human being” should visit the site.  Some experts think that should include the U.S. president, among them Chris Appy of the University of Massachusetts.  He told VOA: “I was very pleased that he decided to go.  I think just showing up is important symbolic act that many Japanese have wanted for a long time.”

But Appy says he thinks the United States should also apologize for the atomic bomb attacks, “I am disappointed that the president appears not willing to apologize.  After all I think in our personal lives, we consider it the height of maturity when an adult is willing to take responsibility and accountability for actions.  Particularly actions that lead to the suffering of the innocent victims.”

Others strongly disagree, including Brian Harding of the Center for American Progress, who told VOA, “The president will not be issuing an apology and the Japanese government is not asking for one either.”

Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims nuclear bombing. Image source: Wikipedia
Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims nuclear bombing. Image source: Wikipedia

‘Special Responsibility’ for atomic bomb use

White House officials have made clear that the president will not apologize.  White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “What I think the president does appreciate is that President [Harry] Truman made this decision for the right reason.”

But Earnest said the United States does have a “special responsibility” as the only country to have ever used an atomic bomb to work tirelessly for nuclear non-proliferation.

McCain opposes visit

Others, including many older Americans and war veterans oppose Obama’s visit.

Republican Senator John McCain is a decorated Vietnam War veteran who ran against Obama in 2008 for the presidency.  He told VOA he simply does not see the point of the trip, “I’m not in the business of telling the President of the United States where to go.  But where, what is the purpose of it?  In some ways, you dredge up very unpleasant memories, but if the President wants to go somewhere he can.”

It is not yet clear whether the president will meet with any of the few remaining survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The president will be accompanied in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.  They will lay a wreath, and Obama will make a statement.

The White House says the leaders will highlight the horrors of war and the need to work towards a world without nuclear weapons. (VOA)

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The Forgotten Indo-China War

The 1967 India and China faced off in the heights of Cho La and Nathu La at the Sikkim border. This time, overcoming the odds, India triumphed

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Know more about the 1967, Indo-China war when India triumphed. Pixabay

The only India-China conflict that remains etched in our collective memory is the 1962 war, which India tragically lost. But five years later, in 1967, India and China faced off once again in the heights of Cho La and Nathu La at the Sikkim border. This time, overcoming the odds, India triumphed.

The fallout of these forgotten battles was immense. China shied away from actively allying with Pakistan and the US during the 1971 India-Pakistan war. And despite several stand-offs in the past half a century, Beijing has never again launched a military offensive against India.

The book ‘Watershed 1967: India’s Forgotten War with China’, written by Probal Dasgupta, an ex-Indian Army officer who served in the Gorkha Regiment for several years, tells us why these battles ushered in an era of peace. It is based on extensive research and interviews with army officers and soldiers who participated in these historic battles. Here are some excerpts from the book:

The Tipping Point: A Tale of Spies and a Breach at the Watershed

For twenty-six-year-old Krishnan Raghunath, Peking was a window to discover China. As a teenager growing up in India, Raghunath had lived through the heady days of the 1950s when slogans of ‘Hindi-Chini bhai bhai’ rent the air. In his early youth in the 1960s the war ended all bonhomie between the two countries. So, as a young foreign service officer, a posting as the second secretary at the Indian embassy in Peking in 1965 was an opportunity to better understand China. At the embassy he was heading the Information Services of India (ISI). Among ISI’s challenges was to cope with the restrictions on exchange of information that the communist government posed for them in China.

Battle
In 1967, India and China faced off in the heights of Cho La and Nathu La at the Sikkim border. Pixabay

June was the beginning of the summer season in Peking. Midsummer rains would pelt the city every time the temperatures rose. June 4, 1967 began as any other regular day for Raghunath. At the hour past midday, he settled into his car along with his colleague P. Vijai and set off towards the Western Hills to visit the temple of the Sleeping Buddha. Along the way, a curious Raghunath noticed the decrepit remains of another temple and stopped the car. He fished out his camera and began to take pictures of it. As he looked through the aperture of his camera to take more shots, he felt a light tap on his shoulder.

A bystander asked him why he was taking pictures in a sensitive military zone where photography was prohibited. Before Raghunath could realize what was happening, the two Indian diplomats were surrounded by soldiers of the PLA. A harried Raghunath tried to reason with the people around him that he did not mean to take photographs for any spying purposes and that he was only interested in the ruins of the temple. The Chinese, however, believed that Raghunath was using the pretext of the temple nearby to click pictures in a prohibited military zone. Upon inspection, their identity cards as embassy staffers were confiscated. The two were whisked into a vehicle and taken away. That evening, news broke about the unprecedented arrest of two Indian diplomats by Chinese authorities.

The Indian embassy immediately swung into action. The diplomats had been accused by China of spying. Denials followed and clarifications were issued that they had not indulged in any espionage activities. But China maintained that Raghunath and Vijai were taking illicit pictures in a sensitive area that had a prohibited military facility close by. The Ministry of Foreign Aff airs in Peking alleged that the diplomats had been trying to create a topographical map of a ‘prohibited area’. According to the Chinese, ‘Upon discovering them, soldiers of the Chinese PLA guarding the area immediately urged them to desist and asked them to leave. K. Raghunath and P. Vijai, however, paid no heed whatsoever and continued to hang around and take photographs of the prohibited area stealthily.’ The Chinese government withdrew Krishnan Raghunath’s diplomatic status and declared Vijai a persona non grata.

Over a week later, on June 13, about 15,000 people gathered at the Peking Municipal People’s Higher Court for the trial of the two Indian diplomats accused of spying on China. Raghunath and Vijai were ‘tried’ and found guilty of espionage. Raghunath was sentenced to ‘immediate deportation’ by the court and told to leave the country forthwith, while Vijai was given three days to leave China. However, despite the different orders, they were brought to the airport at Peking the following morning where an irate mob awaited them. Red Guards kicked and punched the Indian diplomats. A cordon of members of the Indian embassy staff who tried to protect them were also assaulted. Raghunath was forced to walk through a jeering mob of Red Guards, who jostled, kicked and spat on him. Vijai was dragged with his head shoved down, his shoes tearing off in the melee. The humiliation of the two diplomats was meant to send a loud message to India: beware.

In Delhi, the news gave rise to shock and anger and was received with angry protests from political parties. The Indian government believed that the Chinese government had violated international norms by making a film on the confessions of two Indian diplomats for use as propaganda against Indian espionage in China. The Jana Sangh, which was trying to cultivate a muscular Hindu Indian identity, seized the opportunity to try to press the government into a corner. China had thrown down the gauntlet to India’s young prime minister who had built up an early reputation for a certain kind of decisiveness that swung between foolhardiness and brilliant audacity. Indira Gandhi would respond soon.

War
The fallout of this forgotten war was immense. Pixabay

In response to the Chinese belligerence, Chen LuChih, the first secretary of the Chinese embassy in New Delhi, was accused of gathering vital intelligence from India and carrying on subversive activities on Indian soil. Chen was stripped of his diplomatic immunity and ordered to register under the Foreigners’ Registration Act.

Unlike China, India didn’t bother with a trial. The next day, on June 14, the external affairs ministry ordered his immediate deportation to China. The government now turned towards Hsieh Cheng-Hao, who was the third secretary of the embassy, and accused him of subversive activities too. He was promptly declared persona non grata and ordered to leave India within seventy-two hours. The Indian government had responded with alacrity and unusual boldness, showing the heart to return China’s compliment. By now public emotions were riled up. The very next day after the deportation order, crowds gathered outside the Chinese embassy in Delhi, demonstrating vociferously as political parties pounced on the opportunity, instigating mobs to break into the embassy compound and go on a rampage. The mob smashed windows, set fire to a garage, tore down the Chinese flag and assaulted members of the embassy staff. That day seven members of the embassy staff, including Chen Lu-Chih and Hsieh Cheng-Hao, had to be taken to hospital.

The attack on the Chinese embassy set off alarms in Peking. Taking serious note of the violence in Delhi, the Chinese government sent a notice to Ram Sathe, the Indian charge d’affaires in Peking, that the Indian embassy staff’s safety could no longer be guaranteed. Protesters soon gathered outside Sathe’s residence, tearing down the windows of his house, sending the occupants scurrying for safety. The Indian embassy was also under siege with sixty-three men, women and children holed up inside. The hostility on both sides had crossed diplomatic lines. The danger to the lives of the diplomats on both sides was beginning to raise international concern. The likelihood of another war loomed dangerously close.

In Peking, Western diplomats rushed to intervene and decided to deliver food to the persons trapped inside the Indian embassy. But the Western food convoy was turned back by the Red Guards and the police.

India sent a note that unless the siege was lifted ‘appropriate counter measures’ would be adopted. Armed sentries arrived at the Chinese embassy in New Delhi the following day with specific instructions for the Chinese diplomats: the occupants were ordered not to leave the building. India was not about to back off, even if it meant that the embassy staff in both countries ended up being detained as prisoners.

Looking for a possible detente, the Chinese foreign ministry suggested sending an aircraft to Delhi to bring back their diplomats injured in the attack in Delhi. The Indian government responded with a similar request for its diplomats holed up in Peking. China, however, turned down their request. But they didn’t seem to anticipate that India was in no mood to capitulate. The following day, as a Chinese aircraft touched down in Delhi to take back the diplomats, the government in Delhi refused to provide refuelling facilities for the aircraft. Finally, after assurances, an injured Hsieh Cheng-Hao was allowed to leave Delhi on June 21. Chen Lu-Chih was kept under detention and deported three days later.

The demonstrations outside the Indian embassy in Peking, somewhat staged, were called off soon after. Sathe was told that the embassy staff were free to leave the compound and return to their flats. The Indians responded with a reciprocal gesture and withdrew their sentries at the Chinese embassy. The staff could now step out of the embassy in Delhi, though their personal safety remained unguaranteed.

India had matched China for every stride and even outwitted the adversary on occasions. After having mirrored each other’s unyielding and harsh steps, peace overtures from both sides also started to mimic each other. An uneasy truce was established and the ugly diplomatic fracas didn’t blow up into a military crisis. Th e bickering, though, resumed when the Chinese embassy accused Indian customs of seizing literature that contained Mao Zedong’s works. The Indian government, their note complained, was preventing the Chinese staff from their right to study Mao’s thought. To the Chinese, this was the larger conspiracy of capitalism at play.

The rivalry between India and China had begun to worry the West. The diplomatic stand-off had attracted international attention and shortly manifested itself on the border. As if on cue, attention turned to the tiny Himalayan outpost of Nathu La.

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Since 1965 the Chinese had been attempting to dominate the border by various means. They used to make regular broadcasts from loudspeakers at Nathu La, pointing out to Indian troops the pathetic conditions in which they lived, their low salaries and lack of amenities, comparing them to those enjoyed by Chinese officers. Sagat had loudspeakers installed on the Indian side and played similar messages in Chinese every day. Throughout 1966 and early 1967, Chinese propaganda, intimidation and attempted incursions into the Indian territory continued. As mentioned earlier, the border was not marked and there were several vantage points on the watershed which both sides thought belonged to them. Patrols which walked along the border often clashed, resulting in tension, and sometimes even casualties. (IANS)

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New York Times Devotes Entire Front Page to COVID-19 Victims

The names of 1,000 of the COVID-19 victims were published on the front page of New York Times

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New York Times
The New York Times dedicated its front page to the names of COVID-19 victims. Pixabay

The New York Times has devoted its entire front page to the names of 1,000 of the COVID-19 victims as the US approaches nearly 100,000 virus deaths, the current highest in the world as suggested by COVID-19 Information & Resources.

The Sunday edition’s front page comprises a simple list of names and personal details taken from obituaries around the US, the BBC reported.

The headline is “US deaths near 100,000, an incalculable loss”, with a sub-heading that reads: “They were not simply names on a list. They were us.”

New York state, the epicentre of the US coronavirus pandemic, has recorded 385,000 confirmed cases, with 23,195 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

New York Times
Newspaper article titled “A New Physics Based on Einstein” published in ”The New York Times” on November 25, 1919. Wikimedia Commons

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New York City accounts for 197,000 infections and 16,149 fatalities.

As of Sunday, the US registered the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 1,622,670 and 97,087, respectively. (IANS)

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US White House Releases Report Announcing Onset of Cold War With China

US has formally announced the onset of Cold War with China

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China flag
US has officially announced Cold war with China. Wikimedia Commons

By Aarti Tikoo Singh

With its new vision document on China, the US has formally announced the onset of its Cold War with the Asian giant, accusing it of exploiting rule-based world order and re-shaping international system in favour of Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ideology and interests.

Just short of calling it Cold War, the US in its latest report titled, ‘United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China’, released by the White House, has announced that it is “responding to the CCP’s direct challenge by acknowledginga that the two major powers are in a “strategic competition and protecting” their “interests appropriately”.

Until now, the US policy towards the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the report said, was “largely premised on a hope that deepening engagement would spur fundamental economic and political opening” in China and make it a “responsible global stakeholder, with a more open society”.

However, after over 40 years, “it has become evident that this approach underestimated the will of the CCP to constrain the scope of economic and political reform”.

Over the past two decades, reforms have slowed, stalled, or reversed, the report said.

“The PRC’s rapid economic development and increased engagement with the world did not lead to convergence with the citizen-centric, free and open order as the US had hoped. The CCP has chosen instead to exploit the free and open rules- based order and attempt to reshape the international system in its favour.”

Beijing openly acknowledges that it seeks to transform the international order to align with CCP interests and ideology, the US said. “The CCP’s expanding use of economic, political, and military power to compel acquiescence from nation states harms vital American interests and undermines the sovereignty and dignity of countries and individuals around the world.”

mountain china

Beijing openly acknowledges that it seeks to transform the international order to align with CCP interests and ideology, the US said. Pixabay

The White House pointed out that Beijing in its neighborhood, engages “in provocative and coercive military and paramilitary activities in the Yellow Sea, the East and South China Seas, the Taiwan Strait, and Sino-Indian border areas”.

Just a day ago, US diplomat and acting assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, Alice Wells had called out the CCP regime for ratcheting up tensions with India along its borders. Chinese soldiers in the last few months has engaged in several violent faceoffs with Indian soldiers in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Ladakh over boundary issues.

Announcing its approach, the US report said that it is “working in concert with mutually aligned partnersa”Southeast Asian nations, Japan, India, Australia, Republic of Korea and Taiwan on their outlook on the free, open and secure Indo-Pacific region”.

Guided by a return to principled realism, the report said thatA given the strategic choices China’s leadership is making, “the United States now acknowledges and accepts the relationship with the PRC as the CCP has always framed it internally: one of great power competition”.

The White House made it clear that it is not interested in effecting any change in China’s domestic governance model but at the same time said that it won’t make “concessions to the CCP’s narratives of exceptionalism and victimhood” .

The US policies, the report said, are designed to protect its interests and empower its institutions to withstand the CCP’s malign behaviour and collateral damage from the PRC’s internal governance problems.

China
The White House made it clear that it is not interested in effecting any change in China’s domestic governance model. Wikimedia Commons

Accusing the CCP of running propaganda and false narratives, the White House declared that it will continue to challenge Beijing’s attempts at false equivalency between rule-of-law and rule- by-law; counterterrorism and oppression; representative governance and autocracy; and market-based competition and state-directed mercantilism.

The US will not accommodate Beijing’s actions that weaken a free, open, and rules-based international order, the report said, adding that it will continue to refute the CCP’s narrative that the the US is in strategic retreat.

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Using the Cold War terminology, the White House announced that it will work with its robust network of allies and like- minded partners to resist attacks on shared norms and values, within their own governance institutions, around the world, and in international organizations.

The US government said it does not cater to CCP’s demands to create a proper “atmosphere” or “conditions” for dialogue because it sees no value in engaging with Beijing for symbolism and pageantry.

“We instead demand tangible results and constructive outcomes. We acknowledge and respond in kind to Beijing’s transactional approach with timely incentives and costs, or credible threats thereof. When quiet diplomacy proves futile, the United States will increase public pressure on the PRC government and take action to protect United States interests by leveraging proportional costs when necessary,” the report said. (IANS)