The bombings were decided during a time of immense national fear, grief, anger, hatred, and patriotism over the attack on Pearl Harbor and the loss of US lives during the WWII Pacific campaign. There seemed an urgent need to end the war before the planned land invasion of Japan occurred, which some people estimated would result in a million US casualties (later shown to be exaggerated). Options to the bombings were available, but were not chosen; for example, bombing an uninhabited island. Instead, heavily populated civilian cities were targeted. We remember those innocent civilians and the lost opportunities to choose alternatives to this horrendous weapon of mass destruction.
The bombings were carelessly chosen also because they started the nuclear arms race which still, perhaps increasingly, threatens the planet. Whereas on the one hand our leaders did not reflect upon the immediate immorality of bombing civilian cities, on the other hand they did not reflect about the long-range consequences. They did not consider what the Soviet Union would do to counter US power, or believe they could do it, despite the manifest evidence of Soviet capacity and will for war-making in the defeat of the Nazi empire. Soon the Soviets developed their Bomb. Then the US made the hydrogen bomb, soon followed by the Soviet Union. And the pattern continued—the US initiating, the Soviets imitating (with about two exceptions when the Soviet Union preceded the US in nuclear innovation). And our leaders did not consider another certain consequence—that other countries would want the weapon too, as nations always had in the past. Now eight countries have the nuclear weapon of doom. We remember the lost opportunities of statesmanship and for negotiation to end the arms race, which eventually produced over 40,000 nuclear weapons each one exceeding exponentially the explosive power of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.
We remember neither to establish justice with this past, nor to console, nor to inflame, for where is justice to be found in all that destruction, what can console us for all those killings, and why would be wish to repeat that violence of fire and ashes? There will be no closing of those accounts. We remember, rather, at each commemoration, the familiar message of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Never Again. We resolve again individually and collectively to stand against killing. Ahimsa declared Gandhi: Do Not Kill, a-himsa: No killing. That is our foundation. Not passively, not out of fatigue or timidity, but because we have chosen to be different from those who kill, especially those who order the killings. Another form of love in action. Thus we remember to prevent violence with all of our resources; to reject vengeance and retaliation; to rescue the vulnerable people and animals; to build shelters and feed the refugees; to refuse defense as a ruse for war. Out of these actions for peace, we will grow a nurturing world.
Finally, why for Hiroshima-Nagasaki Remembrance do we remember the fire-bombing destruction of Kobe? The answer is simple. The US decision to annihilate Hiroshima and Nagasaki was only part of the larger plan to destroy Japanese cities and to slaughter and terrorize their citizens. The same policy prevailed in the hideous bombings and fire-bombings of German cities. These bombings killed some 800,000 noncombatants in Germany and Japan, and injured hundreds of thousands of civilians. We remember them all, swearing a vow of resistance to the war crimes of air war.