Saturday, April 18, 2015

Hinting of remorse, but not responsibility.

In July 2014, Prime Minister Abe traveled to Australia and gave a speech to the country's parliament. His words were well received and viewed as thoughtful and healing. Thus, there is a focus on Abe's speech Down Under as a model for his upcoming address to a joint meeting of Congress on April 29th, Emperor Hirohito's birthday.

Will Americans and America's Pacific war veterans be satisfied with the same sort of statement? To understand why this is problematic, we reprint and analyze the relevant sections here:
Our fathers and grandfathers lived in a time that saw Kokoda and Sandakan. How many young Australians, with bright futures to come, lost their lives? And for those who made it through the war, how much trauma did they feel even years and years later, from these painful memories?

I can find absolutely no words to say. I can only stay humble against the evils and horrors of history.

May I most humbly speak for Japan and on behalf of the Japanese people here in sending my most sincere condolences towards the many souls who lost their lives.
I can find absolutely no words to say. I can only stay humble against the evils and horrors of history.

May I most humbly speak for Japan and on behalf of the Japanese people here in sending my most sincere condolences towards the many souls who lost their lives.
Many people believe that the Prime Minister used the word "remorse" in the speech. This is not true. It is not in the document.

Instead, he sends” his “condolences towards the many souls who lost their lives." It is a general expression of empathy without any hint of responsibility. Who was responsible for the dead?

Abe merely mentions “Sandakan." It dangles out there without explanation or reflection. It is associated with distant time, not tied to a series of human decisions. He does not say that “Sandakan” was a series of senseless death marches in 1945 on Borneo for approximately 2,400 Australian and British POWs. Only six Australians survived. Of those who died, most were never found.

He did not say that Sandakan was a callous, premeditated war crime perpetrated by an incompetent and fanatical leadership. He did not say that it was an atrocity perpetrated by Imperial Japan. He did not say there was any justification to march to death or murder these sick and defenseless men.

Americans should insulted if Abe mentioned the Bataan Death March in as off-handed a manner. No former POW of Japan will be satisfied to only receive a condolence for his suffering and the deaths of his buddies. They do not want a promise to do better and they certainly do not want condescending pity. They want the assurance that comes with acknowledgment of responsibility. They want to hear remorse.

Prime Minister Abe objects to his country’s past war apologies. He walked out on the vote for the 1995 war apology. He now shuns apologies and never mentions who was responsible for his country's most fatal mistakes.

Abe will squander his grandest opportunity to show that Japan has learned from 70 years of peace if he fails to say that Imperial Japan was responsible for the War. Americans want less an apology than an affirmation that what happened was wrong, very wrong.

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