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The announcement that U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Japan later this month will include a stop in Hiroshima is welcome news. Of course, Obama will not apologize for America's 1945 nuclear attack, which annihilated the city and instantly killed about 90,000 people (with many more dying later from the effects of radiation). Nonetheless, the visit will inevitably spur reflection and debate about what happened there and why.The main argument in favor of dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and a second bomb on Nagasaki three days later, has always been that it would hasten an end to World War II. The attacks actually saved many more Japanese and American lives, the argument goes, than they claimed. Obama remains unwilling to apologize for Hiroshima – a decision with which most Americans probably agree.Not only was Japan extremely brutal toward the populations of Asian countries it occupied – a reality that undermined sympathy for Japanese civilians who became victims of allied attacks – but it also brought the U.S. into that war by perfidiously attacking Pearl Harbor. As a result, many Americans believe that it deserved whatever happened after that.Add to that the widespread view that the bombs accelerated the end of the war, thereby saving lives, and few Americans would make the case that Japan is owed any apology.
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