Obama Makes Historic Hiroshima Visit 05/27 06:13
Barack Obama on Friday paid tribute to the "silent cry" of the 140,000
people killed by the world's first atomic bomb attack and sought to renew
attention in his unfulfilled vision of a world without nuclear weapons, as he
became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima.
HIROSHIMA, Japan (AP) -- Barack Obama on Friday paid tribute to the "silent
cry" of the 140,000 people killed by the world's first atomic bomb attack and
sought to renew attention in his unfulfilled vision of a world without nuclear
weapons, as he became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima.
"Death fell from the sky and the world was changed," Obama said, after
laying a wreath, closing his eyes and briefly bowing his head before an arched
monument in Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park that honors those killed on Aug. 6,
1945, when U.S. forces dropped the bomb that ushered in the nuclear age. The
bombing, Obama said, "demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy
Obama did not apologize, instead offering, in a carefully choreographed
display, a reflection on the horrors of war and his hope that Hiroshima would
be remembered as the beginning of a "moral awakening." As he and Japanese Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe stood near an iconic bombed-out domed building, Obama
acknowledged the devastating toll of war and urged the world to do better.
"We stand here in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the
moment the bomb fell ... we listen to a silent cry," Obama said.
A second atomic bomb, dropped on Nagasaki three days after Hiroshima, killed
Obama also sought to look forward to the day when there was less danger of
nuclear war. He received a Nobel Peace Prize early on in his presidency for his
anti-nuclear agenda but has since seen uneven progress.
"We must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world
without them," Obama said of nuclear weapons.
Following the remarks, Abe called Obama's visit courageous and long-awaited.
He said it would help the suffering of survivors and echoed the anti-nuclear
"At any place in world, this tragedy must not be repeated again," Abe said.
The visit presented a diplomatic tightrope for a U.S. president trying to
make history without ripping open old wounds.
Critics believe Obama's mere presence in Hiroshima will be viewed as an
apology for what they see as a justified attack. But he has also drawn praise
from those who see it as a long overdue gesture for two allies ready to bury a
Obama's remarks showed a careful awareness of the sensitivities. He included
both South Koreans and American prisoners of war in recounting the death toll
at Hiroshima --- a nod to advocates for both groups that publicly warned the
president not to forget their dead.
Obama spoke broadly of the brutality of the war that begat the bombing, but
did not assign blame.
After his remarks, he met with two survivors, but his remarks to the aging
men were out of ear shot of reporters.
At one point, Obama could be seen laughing and smiling with 91-year-old
Sunao Tsuboi, and he embraced Shigeaki Mori, 79, in a hug. But mostly, Obama
just listened the men as they spoke through an interpreter.
The visit was meant to demonstrate the strength of the U.S.-Japanese
alliance, and Obama and Abe took each step together. The men walked along a
tree-lined path, past an eternal flame, toward a river that flows by the domed
building that many associate with Hiroshima.
They went to the lobby of the peace museum to sign the guest book: "?We have
known the agony of war. Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace,
and pursue a world without nuclear weapons," Obama wrote, according to the
The president's call for a nuclear-free world was a far cry from the
optimistic rallying cry he delivered as young, newly elected president. Obama
did not employ his campaign slogan --- "Yes, we can" --- as he did in a speech
in Prague in 2009. Instead, the president hoped for the "courage to escape the
logic of fear" and spoke of diligent, incremental steps.
"We may not realize this goal in my lifetime but persistent effort can roll
back the possibility of catastrophe," he said. "We can chart a course that
leads to the destruction of these stockpiles."
Obama touched down in Hiroshima after completing talks with world leaders at
an international summit in Shima, Japan.
Those who come to ground zero at Hiroshima speak of its emotional impact, of
the searing imagery of the exposed steel beams on the iconic A-bomb dome. The
skeletal remains of the exhibition hall have become an international symbol of
peace and a place for prayer.
Bomb survivor Kinuyo Ikegami, 82, paid her own respects at the cenotaph on
Friday morning, well before Obama arrived, lighting incense and chanting a
Tears ran down her face as she described the immediate aftermath of the bomb.
"I could hear schoolchildren screaming: 'Help me! Help me!'" she said. "It
was too pitiful, too horrible. Even now it fills me with emotion."
Han Jeong-soon, the 58-year-old daughter of a Korean survivor, was also at
the park Friday.
"The suffering, such as illness, gets carried on over the generations ---
that is what I want President Obama to know," she said. "I want him to
understand our sufferings."
Obama's visit is a moment 71 years in the making. Other American presidents
considered coming, but the politics were still too sensitive, the emotions too
raw. Jimmy Carter visited as a former president in 1984.