Charisma Caucus

Should Congress Censure the President for His Hiroshima Speech?

President Obama
President Obama's speech at Hiroshima on Thursday has sparked outrage for calling into question American motivation in World War II. (Reuters photo)

As promised, President Obama didn't apologize to the Japanese for America's use of the atomic bomb to end World War II, but what he did have to say during the first visit to Hiroshima by a sitting U.S. president has many outraged.

"On every continent, the history of civilization is filled with war, whether driven by scarcity of grain or hunger for gold, compelled by nationalist fervor or religious zeal," he said. "Empires have risen and fallen. Peoples have been subjugated and liberated. And at each juncture, innocents have suffered, a countless toll, their names forgotten by time.

"The world war that reached its brutal end in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was fought among the wealthiest and most powerful of nations. Their civilizations had given the world great cities and magnificent art. Their thinkers had advanced ideas of justice and harmony and truth. And yet the war grew out of the same base instinct for domination or conquest that had caused conflicts among the simplest tribes, an old pattern amplified by new capabilities and without new constraints."

He later suggested humanity's "material advancement" and "social innovation" blind us to the "truth": "how our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our toolmaking, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will ... also give us the capacity for unmatched destruction." Humans "easily learn," he added, how to "justify violence in the name of some higher cause."

"Every great religion promises a pathway to love and peace and righteousness, and yet no religion has been spared from believers who have claimed their faith as a license to kill," he said. "Nations arise telling a story that binds people together in sacrifice and cooperation, allowing for remarkable feats. But those same stories have so often been used to oppress and dehumanize those who are different."

Joel B. Pollak, the Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News, wrote afterward that Congress must censure the president over those comments. Comments meant to cast doubt on the "sacrifices and motivations of the Americans who fought the Second World War — on the eve of Memorial Day, no less."

"Obama, a native of Honolulu who grew up near Pearl Harbor, said nothing about the fact that Japan started the war; nothing about the fact that the Japanese were responsible for the slaughter of millions of civilians throughout Asia and the Pacific; nothing about the fact that the Japanese refused to surrender after hundreds of thousands had already been killed in conventional bombing," he wrote. "He described the moral dilemmas of nuclear warfare as if no president, and no American, had considered them before. But he left out the moral case for ending the war, and the hundreds of thousands of deaths avoided because of Hiroshima ... As he has done before, Obama cast a moral equivalence between different civilizations, implying that Americans were just as bad as the Imperial Japanese, or anyone else."

It must be made clear—and only Congress has not only the authority, but the duty, to do so—that "Obama represented no one but himself" at Hiroshima, he added.

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