No one but a madman would wish to repeat the ex perience of war which has stained our bombed,
World War II burnt and blood-drenched century.
But that is no reason not to learn from it-quite the contrary! So on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II this year,
Americans were surely right to ask whether it was necessary to fight the war
and whether we did so with worthy objectives and as much humanity as can ever be brought to Iife-and-death struggle.
It is an unhappy fact that we did not seem to come together very well in answers to these questions,
and in the end the President of the United States decided to omit the concept of victory from the observances in the Pacific of V-J Day.
The initials stand, of course, for victory over Japan-and I personally believe it is of the utmost importance that that victory be recognized, acknowledged and learned from.
History is there for us not as a handy dumping ground for our prejudices or ideological preconceptions or, perhaps worst,
for political convenience, but as a source of refreshment and learning.
We should have learned from Stalin and Hitler that history so treated becomes an instrument not of enlightenment but of control and oppression.
Czech President Vaclav Havel has said thatthe liberation of his country from occupation
by a foreign army and alien rule stemmed from the Czech awareness of history,
the unrul y and often politicall y inconveni ent record of human experi ence.
The failure of the American people to come together to commemorate.
the fiftieth anniversary of victory in history’s most terrible war may be traced directly to the response of several important American institutions.
Our national museum, the Smithsonian Institution , used skewed numbers to grossly misrepresent the ex pected casua lties of an invasion of Japan.
They did this in order to strengthen the case aga inst use of the atomic bomb to end the war quickly.
A majortelev ision network put on a wide ly advertised spec ial feature on the same question,
in which the anchorman fatuously asked “What was the hurry?” to end the war.
In a war where there is widespread suffering, the inanity of such a comment is clear- it is simply divorced from the historic al reality of the times.
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