Responding to the many congratulatory words celebrating his 90th birthday on August 13, Fidel Castro wrote an open letter published in Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba.
After remembering his early years with his father in eastern Cuba, Fidel concluded with comments about the risks of nuclear weapons. He specifically criticized President Obama’s May 27 speech in Hiroshima, Japan for failing “to apologize for the killing of hundreds of thousands of people” by the U.S. dropping an atomic bomb on that city.
President Obama’s Hiroshima Speech
Yes, President Obama did not use the word “apology” in his Hiroshima speech. But Fidel’s criticism failed to acknowledge that President Obama did recognize the horrors of that attack and the need for the U.S. and all other countries to eliminate nuclear weapons. Below are photographs of President Obama and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in front of the Memorial Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace and of Obama’s embracing Mori Shigaki, a Hiroshima bombing survivor.
Obama opened the speech with these words: “Seventy-one years ago, on a bright, cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed. A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself.”
“We come to [Hiroshima to] ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not so distant past. We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 in Japanese men, women and children; thousands of Koreans; a dozen Americans held prisoner. Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.”
In “the image of a mushroom cloud that rose into these skies, we are most starkly reminded of humanity’s core contradiction; how the very spark that marks us as a species — our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our tool-making, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will — those very things also give us the capacity for unmatched destruction.”
“Hiroshima teaches . . . [that technological] progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution, as well. . . . [The] memory of [the bombing of Hiroshima on] the morning of August 6th, 1945 must never fade. That memory allows us to fight complacency. It fuels our moral imagination. It allows us to change.”
After the end of World War II an “international community established institutions and treaties that worked to avoid war and aspire to restrict and roll back, and ultimately eliminate the existence of nuclear weapons. . . . But among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear, and pursue a world without them.”
“The world was forever changed here. But today, the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is the future we can choose -– a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare, but as the start of our own moral awakening.”