My Uncle Charlie’s Army division slogged its way through the Pacific during World War II. He was wounded on Iwo Jima and then a second time, more seriously so, on Okinawa. After the war, he drank to excess.
I was 6 or 7 when I asked him whether he had personally killed any Japanese soldiers. He nodded. Unaware of how insensitive it was, I followed with: “A lot?” His eyes teared up and, after a pause, he nodded again.
Were Charlie alive today, I would not ask him to apologize for what he did, but here’s the thing: Despite some historians calling a particular war a “good” war, despite some theologians calling some wars “just wars” in the eyes of God, in the end they are gruesome blights on humanity.
The White House has said that the president does not plan to apologize for Hiroshima (“A somber visit without apology,” May 12 editorial). But should he express sorrow that our enmity back then led to such an epic, mutual waste of human life? Should he recommit our nation to do everything possible to avoid another world war, especially a nuclear war? And would it be appropriate for him to pause for a moment of silent prayer for all those who perished?
I think my Uncle Charlie would nod his assent.