President Barack Obama had been in office only a few months when he made the following statement in Prague on April 5, 2009, before thousands of thrilled Czech Republic citizens: "Today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."
During the months and years of his presidency, he has not lived up to this statement. He and his administration and Congress seem hell bent on expanding U.S. nuclear capability: The United States plans to spend over $1 trillion over the next 30 years to "modernize" its nuclear arsenal warheads, delivery systems and production facilities, according to the New York Times ; a grim opposite of his Nobel Peace Prize stance.
Although he stated in that same 2009 speech that "this goal will not be reached quickly -- perhaps not in my lifetime," with seven months left in office, Obama has an opportunity to put forth one last effort. He should make a visit to Hiroshima or Nagasaki — both which the U.S. bombed within days of each other in 1945 — when he is in Japan in May for the G7 summit.
As Rick Wayman, director of programs for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation said in a letter to the Washington Post, "A visit to Hiroshima would underline the moral and humanitarian imperatives to abolish nuclear weapons."
It would offer a small, but very important, underscoring of his speech in Prague when he first became the leader of the U.S.; it would be more than a token of redemption.
In his letter, Wayman wrote, "Abstract theories of national security and nuclear deterrence have been stubbornly followed for more than 70 years while willfully turning a blind eye to the very real catastrophic human consequences of nuclear weapons."
It must be tempting for those who insist on using war to bring peace to think in terms of collateral damage instead of dead mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters — and all of the complex human tragedies that accompany war. It is why drone pilots are having post-traumatic stress disorder after visualizing human targets and watching them die on their screens, according to a story in the New York Times in 2013.
The Hibakusha, survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, have been working these intervening years to prevent a nuclear attack anywhere, according to an article in the Guardian in 2015. The Hibakusha, the excited Czech Republic citizens from 2009 and peace activists throughout the world deserve the meaningful gesture of a visit next month in Hiroshima or Nagasaki by President Obama.
Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" runs every Friday.