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Hope for a message from Hiroshima

What kind of penetrating words, transcending rhetoric, will U.S. President Barack Obama give at Hiroshima, and how will he deliver them?

    After the end of the Pacific War, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who oversaw the occupation of Japan, sent a message from Tokyo for the inaugural Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony on Aug. 6, 1947, two years after the dropping of the atomic bomb. As could be expected, this was not an apology. According to a Mainichi Shimbun article at the time, MacArthur stated in a high tone that the "agonies of that fateful day serve as a warning to all men of all races that the harnessing of nature's forces in furtherance of war's destructiveness will progress until the means are at hand to exterminate the human race." Ceremony participants respectfully listened as an interpreter read out the message.

    At the ceremony the following year, the message given by the lieutenant general of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force carried a different tone, as if to say Japan had got what it had coming. According to the Chugoku Shimbun newspaper's "Record of Hiroshima," the lieutenant general stated that "the punishment given to Hiroshima was only part of the retribution of the Japanese people as a whole for pursuing the doctrine of war." The message was also given that if Japan protected a policy of peace, then the world could prevent this kind of tragedy.

    There were later restrictions on the peace memorial ceremony. When the Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950, the occupation forces took a hard line, and the ceremony was suspended due to "circumstances," with police reportedly on their guard against nonconforming gatherings. In the spring of 1952, the occupation period ended, and the peace ceremony and reporting on the atomic bombings were freed from the yoke of occupation authorities.

    Have the world's leaders changed since then? While preaching the threat that nuclear weapons pose to mankind, leaders are using them as a trump card in their strategies. They decide, without verification, that the dropping of the bombs was correct. It seems that essentially, nothing has changed over the course of several decades. And the truth of the damage is surprisingly little known.

    I have faint hopes that when President Obama stands in Hiroshima, representing the world's top nuclear power, he will give words that open a door no one else has been able to push open. Is this too much to hope for?

    On a side note, there is another person whose words I would have liked to hear. Moves to ban the nuclear bomb gathered momentum following the exposure of fishermen aboard the No. 5 Fukuryu Maru to radiation in the wake of the March 1954 Bikini Atoll nuclear test. The previous month, Marilyn Monroe and her husband Joe DiMaggio, who were in Japan, visited an exhibit at a memorial hall in Hiroshima showing articles exposed to the atomic bombing. There remains a photo showing Monroe in a winter coat, viewing a panoramic model of the A-bombed city. Monroe, who died eight years later, experienced a life of both splendid stardom and unhappiness.

    I wonder how she felt about the desolate scars of the bombing of Hiroshima. It was in vain that I searched media from the time to hear her own words. (By Kenji Tamaki, Expert Senior Writer)

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