Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Making Japan Own Its History

Most of us see Japan as we came to know it during the last quarter of the past century. We see it that way because we like it that way. We don't see Japan as it was from the 1920's until the end of WWII. We don't like to look at the ugly face of Japan - its brutal, barbaric, martial face.

Half a century later Japan is evolving to take its proper place in the community of nations. There's nothing wrong with that, in itself. What is troubling is the lengths to which Japan's ruling right-wingers have been going to erase the country's hideous past.

The Japanese government has plunged into a furious campaign of denial. They deny that Japanese kidnapped many thousands of Asian women, a lot of them Korean, and forced them into sexual slavery for their troops abroad. Even more atrocious has been their utter denial of what is known as the "Rape of Nanking" where invading Japanese troops indulged themselves in an orgy of rape and mass murder which was well documented by Westerners living in the city back then.

The US Congress has passed a resolution calling on Japan to apologize for its wartime sexual slavery of Asian women. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has rejected the resolution, calling it "regrettable." From the New York Times:

Some of the aging former sex slaves, known euphemistically in Japan as comfort women, and their advocates welcomed the resolution. But they reacted angrily at Mr. Abe’s response. “Abe denies that they were the ones who violated the women,” said Jan Ruff O’Herne, 84, a Dutch woman who was forced into sex slavery in Indonesia.

“I didn’t expect anything better from him than that,” she said, speaking by phone from her home in Adelaide, Australia. “But this resolution puts enormous pressure on the Japanese government. I’m still hoping that something will happen because the women are getting old, and we deserve a proper apology.”

Japan absolutely must own its own history. We have to see to that.

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