Daniel Philpott: Why Obama should apologize for Hiroshima - NY Daily News
Daniel Philpott is a professsor at Notre Dame
As the first sitting U.S. President to visit Hiroshima, Barack Obama has insisted that he will not apologize for the United States’ use of the atomic bombs in August 1945, doubtless aiming to ward off the domestic criticism that such contrition would garner.
Early in his presidency, Obama’s foes on the right lambasted him for an “apology tour” overseas. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey showed that 70% of Americans over 65 considered the atomic bombs justified, while 47% of 18- to 29-year-olds thought the same.
Would the President be wrong to apologize, though? What the bombings flouted was not the politics of the right or the left, but rather the timeless moral law which says that it is always wrong intentionally to kill an innocent person — that is, to murder — and to adopt an immoral means to one’s end. These are the precepts behind centuries-old laws of war, which have distinguished combatants, who may be targeted lawfully, from non-combatants, whose death one may never intend.
The deaths of non-combatants is what the U.S. manifestly did intend when, for the first and only time in history, it used nuclear weapons. Historians do not dispute that the primary reason for the bombs was to destroy the morale of Japan by killing its civilians, thereby hastening the end of the war. Killing non-combatants — murder — was a means to an end. The same reasoning had underlaid the United States’ obliteration bombing of Japanese cities, including Tokyo, as well as the Allies’ bombing of Hamburg and Dresden, Germany, earlier in the war.