In Japan it has been a more strained issue for the government and people. Death marches, brutality, sex slaves, and on.
Now, of course, war is hell. But in the last century many steps were taken to, first, prevent the horrible extremes of war. Second, to address and face them, especially the most horrific excesses.
When it comes to dealing with and facing the war, Japan has dithered.
There has been many tiresome efforts to get the Japanese government to give
reparations to up to 200,000 victims of sex slavery, forced into prostitution by
the Japanese Military before and during World War II. Although the government
admitted to the crimes in the early 90s, they assert that all claims were
settled by post-war treaties. Now some members are taking it a step further (or
backwards, I should say) and denying the crimes' existence altogether. (I sense
a bit of contradiction here...)
Nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a
statement yesterday implying that the women were actually not forced into sex
slavery, saying, "The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was
coercion."Now right-wing members of government are talking of pushing for an
"official revision of the apology." And what kind of apology is that supposed to
look like? The refusal to give reparations is bad enough, but after years of
struggle these women have went through to get the justice they deserve, the
government's lack of accountability and straight-up disrespect for their
sufferings would be just as heinous a crime as what actually happened. Sigh.
So, now no crime occurred. These women were just whores. the Raping of Nan King is a myth, I suppose. Now, imagine a German legislator (not even mentioning the fact we are talking here about the leader of the nation) claiming the Holocaust was myth, that the Jews were well treated. What would the reaction be? Outrage. Look at the reaction to comments on WWII from the president of Iran. We are flipping out lids. But this is hardly worth noting. It is written up in papers, but quickly forgotten.
So let's note some of the unproven events in the Washington Post:
Anyone who doubts that the Japanese army forced Asian women into sexual
slavery in World War II should "face the truth," South Korea's foreign minister said Friday as outrage grew over
comments by Japan's prime minister that there was no evidence of the
But one of the harshest comments came from 81-year-old Hilaria Bustamante
of Manila, who said she was kept as a sex slave in a Japanese garrison for a
year in 1942 as a 16-year-old.
"What he (Abe) said has angered me," she said.
"They think we are just like toilet paper that they can throw away after being
Historians say some 200,000 women _ mostly from Korea and China _ served in the Japanese military brothels throughout Asia
in the 1930s and 1940s. Witnesses, victims and even some former Japanese
soldiers say many of the women were kidnapped or otherwise forced into brothels,
where they could be raped by scores of soldiers a day.
His statement contradicted evidence in Japanese documents
unearthed in 1992 that historians said showed military authorities had a
direct role in working with contractors to forcibly procure women for the
brothels, known as "comfort stations." The remark also cast doubt on a 1993
Japanese government apology to the sex slaves.
Victims and their supporters have pushed unsuccessfully for a
parliament-approved apology from Japan and official government compensation.
Japan set up a private fund for compensation in 1995, but has refused to provide
"Our women here, the grandmothers, said that they were forced, that they
were coerced into rendering sexual servitude inside the garrisons, inside the
'comfort stations,'" Extremadura said. "Now, let the Japanese government prove
that they went there willingly ... so that they can be labeled as prostitutes.
That is where this is heading."
Bustamante said she was heading home in 1942 after scavenging for rice when
three Japanese soldiers stopped her on the road and seized her by the arms and
legs and threw her into a truck "like a pig."
"Even as I struggled, I could not do anything. They slapped me, they
punched me. I was only 16 then, what could I do?" she told AP Television
Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, on a visit to Tokyo, declined to
comment directly on Abe's statement.
"Our view is that what happened during the war was most deplorable," he
said when asked about the sex slave issue. "But ... as far as some kind of
resolution of this issue, this is something that must be dealt with between
Japan and the countries that were affected."
Last month, however, the House of Representatives held hearings on a
resolution calling for Japan to fully acknowledge and apologize for the sexual
abuse. U.S. lawmakers have introduced a nonbinding resolution urging Japan to
Supporters of the resolution want an apology similar to the one the
U.S. government gave to Japanese-Americans forced into internment camps during
World War II. That apology was approved by Congress and signed into law by
President Ronald Reagan in 1988.
For a while now, as people saw this movement in Japan, it was shrugged off as a few ultra nationalist. A minority. Well, now it is the PM of Japan supporting them. There has been this slide in Japan to deny what happen in the war, to rewrite it as Japan being victimized and defending itself with perfect valor and unquestionable honor.
I am okay with Japan growing and moving beyond the past. But rewriting atrocities and war crimes as lies in the fog of war promises the world only the opportunity for history to be repeated.
This should trouble all.