‘Hibakusha’ Apologize for Pearl Harbor? Why?

The farcical NPT conference drags on: the US and Israel, both nuclear powers, the former actually noncompliant, the latter not even a signatory, point their trigger fingers at Iran; Iran, with not even a nuclear power plant, complains the world doesn’t care that the US basically threatens to nuke it every couple of weeks and wants to “crush” it with sanctions with no evidence of its evil intentions. But in the midst of this pointless exercise in Western self-validation, the survivors of the only nuclear attacks ever carried out, by the United States on Japan at the end of WWII, remind us of the proven horrors of nuclear weapons.

The “Hibakusha Stories” group of Hiroshima nuclear-bomb survivors is touring high schools around New York City, and this week they visited my local high school in Bushwick, Brooklyn, to speak with 10th-grade students about their emotionally and physically painful experiences. The survivors are surprisingly unvengeful, more than anything desiring an end to nuclear weapon arsenals. But in their attitudes lies the root of all wars.

“[Survivor] Mimaki also felt the need to apologize for Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, bowing his head to a silent audience…”

Mimaki was a toddler when his family was nuked. His parents died of cancer relatively soon after. He suffered sicknesses for years and had to be medicated. That he should feel the need to apologize for a (not altogether illegitimate) military strike that happened before he was born is a symptom of the sickness of nationalism and collectivism. The man has absolutely no responsibility and even if the attack on Pearl Harbor were an unarguable act of pure aggression, his apology should be meaningless — he didn’t do it, he didn’t support it, he wasn’t even alive.

People are not their governments, they are their government’s victims. They should not be doubly victimized by being held to account for the crimes of their own oppressors.