According to a secret cable published by Wikileaks, it appears that, when President Obama went to Japan in November of 2009, he wanted to go to Hiroshima and apologize for the United States having dropped atomic bombs on Japan in August of 1945 and that it was the Japanese who had to tell him he could not to do it.
While the White House is claiming “there was never any plan for the president to apologize for Hiroshima”, let’s look at what the cable says. The cable, which was from the United States Ambassador to Japan to the State Department, said this, in relevant part (the whole cable can be found here):
“On the President's upcoming visit to Japan in November , he [Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka] recommended keeping the program relatively simple and centered around the Tokyo metropolitan area, adding that it would be premature to include a visit to Hiroshima. …
Anti-nuclear groups, in particular, will speculate whether the President would visit Hiroshima in light of his April 5  Prague speech on non-proliferation. He [Vice Foreign Minister Yabunaka] underscored, however, that both governments must temper the public's expectations on such issues, as the idea of President Obama visiting Hiroshima to apologize for the atomic bombing during World War II is a ‘non-starter.’”
While the cable does not specifically state that it was the President’s, or the United States’, idea for the President to apologize in Hiroshima, I find it hard to believe Japan would tell the President it was a “non-starter” for him to go to Hiroshima and apologize if the United States did not bring up the idea itself. Is it really plausible that the Japanese government would tell the President that he shouldn’t go to Hiroshima and apologize on their volition? Would the Japanese really bring this up first, by themselves, without the United States indicating pretty clearly that this is what the President wanted to do? Highly unlikely.
Which means that President Obama wants to, and apparently thinks it is appropriate for him to, apologize on behalf of the United States for the United States having dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Which means I want Barack Obama out of the White House on January 20, 2013, before he gets a chance to do that.
I am not going to repeat all of the arguments supporting President Truman’s decision to drop these bombs – other than to say that I envy the certainty of those who say that it wasn’t necessary to drop the bombs and that Japan was going to surrender anyway, without an invasion, in a very short time.
I don’t know what Japan was going to do, and I can imagine that the decision to drop the bombs must have been an incredibly difficult one for President Truman. He couldn’t know for certain if dropping the bombs was necessary to end the war or if they would end the war, whether because they didn’t work or because the Japanese still wouldn’t surrender. He made the decision because it seemed to him, based on what he knew then, that dropping the bombs was the best way to end the war as soon as possible and with the fewest number of American casualties (he was, after all, President of the United States), as well as the fewest Japanese casualties. I can only imagine the relief that President Truman felt when Japan announced its surrender six days after the second bomb was dropped.
But in President Obama’s opinion, this most difficult decision was so wrong and so morally repugnant that he wanted to go to Hiroshima to apologize for it. I am very glad he was not able to do it.
One final point: Next year, during the campaign, when President Obama talks about the obstructionist or “do nothing” Republicans in Congress, trying to invoke the spirit of Harry Truman, remember that President Obama wanted to apologize for President Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan to try to end World War II war as soon as possible. And realize that Barack Obama is not a Harry S. Truman Democrat.
Update (10/16/11 8:05 pm): I corrected a typo in the first paragraph. I changed "November of 1989" to "November of 2009".