November 16th, 2009 13:40 EST
An Itinerary for President Obama's Next Trip to Japan
As an American living in Tokyo, I am always excited and a little apprehensive when a US President hits town. Still, no matter how you slice it, I felt that President Obama`s recent visit was if not a whopping, at least, a reasonable success.
After all, his speech at Suntory Hall in Tokyo covered all the main niceties. The Japan-US relationship is "critical" to Asia and the world. He will seek to reinforce it through "mutual understanding" and respect. He will seek stronger ties with China but not at the expense of Japanese interests. He will push for North Korea to address the abduction issue. He will work with Japan to fight climate change and to create a nuclear weapon-free world.
He and his counterpart, Prime Minister Hatoyama, also studiously avoided any contentious issues such as the Futenma Air Base relocation matter. If you don`t have anything nice to say, well, you know the rest. And he had lunch with the Imperial family, bowed deeply, and didn`t throw up on anyone (sorry, Papa Bush!)
Now that the pleasantries of the first visit are out of the way, the President can start dealing with some of the bilateral concerns in earnest. And can begin to prepare for his next visit.
My suggested itinerary is as follows:
These are the days when the atomic bombs were dropped on these two cities whose names define the nuclear age. Nowadays, each city holds memorial services. Speeches are made, survivors are honored, and doves are released. World leaders often attend but, not surprisingly, no US President ever has.
Many pundits have referred to a potential visit to either or both cities as a political "minefield" and undoubtedly this is so. But I can`t think of any other President in my lifetime I`d rather have in a minefield. (Remember Reverend Wright, "paling around with terrorists", and the like.) If anyone can navigate a"minefield", express sympathy to vicitms while not outraging American vets, it would be President Obama, methinks.
I must admit that this has a personal side for me as well. My wife is from Nagasaki and her father is an atomic bomb survivor (he was saved by being pressed under a collapsed house and avoiding the radiation). He was none too thrilled by his daughter marrying an American, either (that`s another article, I guess.) It would mean a lot to him if President Obama came to Nagasaki and apologized.
Apologized? Yes, that`s what I think he should do. We apologized after the My Lai incident when dozens of innocent Vietnamese villagers were killed, as well we should have. We apologize when drone attacks kill civilians in Pakistan and elsewhere. How many innocent people were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Intentionally. We bombed cities, not military installations. The cities were mostly populated by women, children, and elderly since the men were off at the front. We owe an apology.
But, wait a minute, you may be saying. Dropping the bomb saved lives, US servicemen`s lives and even Japanese lives by removing the need for an invasion. That`s what I learned in school, too. Is that right, President Obama? If nuclear weapons saved lives, we shouldn`t be seeking a world without them. We might need to use them to "save lives" again. If however, we need a world without nuclear weapons, and they should never be used under any circumstances, we should apologize.
Perhaps, Prime Minister Hatoyama might make a reciprocal visit to Pearl Harbor but even if he does not, we should do the right thing. And since there are two days between the events, I recomend spending a night or two in Ginowan, Okinawa, in some small inn nearby Futenma Base so you can experience what it`s like to have massive military planes roaring in and out at all hours of the day and night, just overhead, polluting the air and tropical beaches of an island that depends on tourism as its number one source of income.
On the 9th, after the ceremonies in Nagasaki, you could top it all off by a dip in Obama Hot Spring, just a thirty or so minute drive up the road from the Nagasaki Peace Park. I don`t know if you`ll make it to either one of these events during your term but if you do and you apologize, then you will surely be worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize that you have already recieved.