The White House press secretary issued a release on May 10 about President Obama’s upcoming trip to Vietnam and Japan May 21-28 that ends with a significant statement: “Finally, the President will make an historic visit to Hiroshima with Prime Minister Abe to highlight his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” [Emphasis added.]
The importance of this wording consists of much more than the fact the Hiroshima was the first place where nuclear weapons were used in warfare against a civilian population, when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city on August 6, 1945. The explosion destroyed 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people, with tens of thousands more dying later of radiation exposure. Three days later, a U.S. plane dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 40,000 people — with a similar number dying afterwards of the effects of radiation.
The terrible loss of human life occurring in these bombings has since been used as a warning by those who would ban all nuclear weapons — or turn them over to international control under the United Nations. As the debate over the ethics of using these weapons against civilians has continued during the past 70 years — with many people accepting the original justification offered by our government that they were necessary to end the war and save more lives than were lost — others have made a strong case that Japan was prepared to surrender even before the bombing and that they were, therefore, unnecessary.