Thoughts on the ‘Abe Statement’ on the 70th Anniversary WWII’s End: A Missed Opportunity


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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave his big speech on the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II last Friday. There has been a torrent of comment, much of pretty positive. Jennifer Lind made the good points that a speech like this would have been remarkable by almost any other head of state/government, and that no other imperialists in Asia’s past are lining up to apologize (ouch). So, I agree, it is pretty remarkable compared to the usual nationalist bluster we expect from heads of state and government on such occasions (think Putin the thug).

But it still ducked a lot, and it pretty clearly played up the very wrong, very revisionist WWII ‘victim narrative’ in Japan. That is, that Japan was a victim in the war, because of the atom bomb drop, and/or that its people were dragged into the war by a gang of militarists who didn’t represent the nation. Those interpretations are generous to say the least. Pretty hard to square kamikaze raids and ritual suicide with that.

The following comments were originally written for the Nelson Report. I thank Chris for soliciting me.

“Abe didn’t really say anything remarkable. This won’t lead to a regional breakthrough. He was clearly speaking to his domestic audience and Japan’s former opponents simultaneously, which is why the language is so bland and diplomatic, both exculpatory and regretful at the same time.

A few things leapt out at me:

1. The context provided was that Japan’s early imperial efforts were somehow anti-colonial. For example, colonized people everywhere were apparently thrilled that Japan defeated Russia in 1905. That is pretty self-serving, not to mention inaccurate. The idea that Japan’s use of force in the first half of the twentieth century was to prevent Western domination of East Asia has a been a right-wing historiographic trope in Japan for awhile. But it is far more accurate to say that Japan was mimicking what is saw the West doing in places like India and Africa. There was nothing ‘liberatory’ about Japan’s conflicts, especially in Northeast Asia were Western domination was not a real threat. Japan was empire-building, just like Western states a generation earlier, and it would help a lot if Japanese conservatives would simply admit this.

2. Little agency is admitted. Colonialism and the Pacific War just seem to happen. So “Japan took the wrong turn,” which makes it sound like Japanese decision-makers didn’t actually purposefully and extensively plan the imperial venture over decades, complete with blatantly aggressively moves like Pearl Harbor. This is another rightist historiographic chestnut – that war was someone forced on Japan or that it just came about as a natural outcome of international politics.

3. There wasn’t much on the specifics of the Army’s harshness toward the peoples it overran – no mention of Nanjing, Unit 731, the comfort women system (which was empire-wide, not just in Korea), Bataan, and so on. It’s pretty revealing of the gap between Japan and the rest of the world on this that atom bomb drop was mentioned twice, while the most the comfort women got was an oblique: “women behind the battlefields whose honour and dignity were severely injured.” There’s a lot on how Japan suffered in the war, without the obvious admission that Japan brought this on itself or that Japan’s leaders could have stopped the 1945 bombing campaign by surrendering much earlier.

Good grief. All this kinda makes you wonder what the Japanese put in their textbooks…

4. This won’t do regionally. The ROK and China won’t accept it. There’s far too much justification, avoidance, and self-pity. It’s too bad. This is likely the highest profile chance Abe will get to change the regional dynamic on Japan and the Empire, and he blew it. But I guess that’s just who he is. He really believes this stuff, it seems. Given that China and North Korea are not democracies, he won’t face much critical blowback. He can always point to their worse denialism and brutality. But for democratic partners, most obviously South Korea, this statement will do nothing to relieve the moral pressure Japan faces on history. A Park-Abe summit likely won’t happen, and I bet the South Korean reaction tomorrow morning will be tough.

All in all, a mixed effort that will not change anything regionally. A missed opportunity.

6 thoughts on “Thoughts on the ‘Abe Statement’ on the 70th Anniversary WWII’s End: A Missed Opportunity

  1. So, guy #1 gave 1 mark and the #2 gave 5 marks. I have to side more with guy #1, though. It is interesting how you just conceded that this is actually a pretty good speech by most standards, and even concede that it is more than other imperialists, yet you choose to emphasize how the glass is half empty based on a very American historiography.

    While I agree that ROK and China won’t accept it, these vibes from neutral brokers like you probably are not helping the situation. Since you have agreed that it is pretty good by most standards, you’ll play a bigger part in reconciliation by choosing a narrative that emphasizes China and Korea are getting pretty good cuts.

    Further, I love how you denounce the victim narrative, which will be due to active measures by the United States of America in the same article you tell Japan to show more sympathy to their victims. At least whatever you may say of Nanking, it wasn’t a deliberate act by the Imperial Japanese High Command. The same cannot be said of strategic bombers of the USAAF.

    That aside “revisionist” should be used correctly. The definition of revisionist is that previously the historical narrative was agreed to be A, then you appeared and argue it was B. So, if for 50 years comfort women weren’t even on the radar, then it suddenly is, you can believe them or not believe them, but that’s revisionist. Narratives that were basically there from the start are not revisionist.

    >its people were dragged into the war by a gang of militarists who didn’t represent the nation

    I actually agree. The only problem is that Abe did not say that. In fact, the words “army” or “military” did not enter his speech. Japan made the decision to use force. Japan challenged the international order. Japan lost sight of the trends of the world. And so on.

    And that’s because right-wingers don’t buy the militarist theory, really. That’s actually a left-winger theory, with origins to Occupation era reindoctrination, back when they thought they could forever do without Japan’s military. Right-wingers see their country as normal, and thus, whatever happened is not the sole responsibility of some “militarists”.

    >The idea that Japan’s use of force in the first half of the twentieth century was to prevent Western domination of East Asia has a been a right-wing historiographic trope in Japan for awhile.

    Abe said something about the Russo-Japanese War, and you chose to expand things to the whole “first half of the twentieth century”? That allows you to bring a whole lot of events to the table, when Abe is talking about one.

    While I doubt anyone did a survey, if you ask me whether Asians (that were literate enough to read papers and find out) were happy the Japanese beat the Russians, I suspect yes. When you are under the White yoke for so long, something like this, even if it is not you, can make you happy.

    >There was nothing ‘liberatory’ about Japan’s conflicts, especially in Northeast Asia were Western domination was not a real threat.

    By Northeast Asia, do you mean Manchuria or do you mean Korea. Korea isn’t worth very much, while Manchuria is. However, it is quite plausible if the Japanese don’t take Korea, the Russians will, and Japan will have a powerful presence at its doorstep.

    >Japan was empire-building, just like Western states a generation earlier, and it would help a lot if Japanese conservatives would simply admit this.

    Since you’ve just agreed they are doing nothing you weren’t doing, surely you are in a poor position to demand large apologies. Further, Japan does have a higher necessity than most colonizers. The rest of the nations in Europe can maintain positions by forming alliances with other European powers. Japan lost her alliance with Britain in 1922 and that left her alone against the United States. If you are a shrimp sized island and can’t get allies, well then you’ll have to expand.

    >actually purposefully and extensively plan the imperial venture over decades

    Then can anybody explain to me why this planned venture had to have Manchuria instigated by a few junior officers. Or why the Japanese China Garrison Army numbered all of 5600 on July 7, 1937?

    The Tokyo Trials worked hard to glue everything together to try and form lines out of dots (mostly by blotting out almost everything China is doing – if you only write about the military movements of one side, or without noting the amount of troops on the other side, you can make them look very aggressive), but looking at the whole image, there is a lot of reluctance on Japan’s part to enter a full-scale conflict.

    >There’s a lot on how Japan suffered in the war, without the obvious admission that Japan brought this on itself or that Japan’s leaders could have stopped the 1945 bombing campaign by surrendering much earlier.

    I know this is how standard American historiography handles the bombing campaign so as not to cause American students too much moral grief, but this is a dangerous attitude.

    I don’t want to categorically equate the two scenarios, but if we accept that crimes can be mitigated or even justified by saying the victim “brought onto himself” or “they had options”, then we can push all the pains of China onto itself. There is certainly an option after July 7 for China to bite its tongue and concede the point on what is after all a controversial incident. They did not. Consider what would (and did) happen in a full out Sino-Japanese War where China is too weak to really hold its own, surely even a humilitating peace is preferable. But no… so, did they bring it onto themselves?

    I think it is healthier to accept that ultimately, killing is the responsibility of the active agent. The more so in cases that you aren’t even shooting at the things that are shooting at you.

  2. I must say that the quality of Prof Kelly’s recent writings regarding Japan, like this article, is quite questionable. As Shimazaki-san says above, the piece is a disjointed criticism based on a very American historiography. Also, it resorts to rhetoric and sweeping generalizations, without as much as a mention of legitimate (and very widely available) opposing views. Now, I am not saying that the Japanese (mostly right-wing, if you want to call it that) historiography is the be-all end-all narrative. However, given that he has become somewhat of an influential voice, I do wish that Prof Kelly would try harder to learn the opposing views, and initiate a healthy debate, instead of dismissing different narratives as “creepy”.

    >it pretty clearly played up the very wrong, very revisionist WWII “victim narrative”

    Is it revisionist to look at new evidence and alter the historical narrative accordingly? If you simply don’t agree with the new narrative, you should not call it revisionism. If you shout “revisonism!” without looking at the evidence, then that to me, is anti-humanism.

    The reason that some of the so called “revisionism” is happening now is because, lay-people can look stuff up, and can make their own judgments about the narrative, instead of relying on media, or what is taught in schools. You can actually read the primary evidence surrounding Japan’s march towards war, Pearl Harbor, the alleged atrocities, the decision to use atomic bombs, or whatever your pet issue is. Granted, many will still choose to distort and cherry-pick, but the intelligent opposition is inviting you to an academic debate where all the evidence is presented.

    Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese newspaper, recently admitted to publishing fabricated stories relating to comfort women. I would say that is new and important evidence (since it was pretty much the only testimonial of widespread abductions). To revisit the comfort women narrative based on that retraction seems the normal course of action, not visceral revisionism.

    As for the “victim narrative”, I just don’t see it. Abe was reflecting on the 3 million compatriots who perished during the war. It is victim narrative because he talked about his own people before talking about the suffering caused in other countries? Abe just said, war sucks, people suffered (domestic and abroad), and we should never walk down that path again. That sounds pretty pacifist. He didn’t say, boo-hoo Japan, US should apologize, China had it coming. Now, that would be victim narrative.

    >its people were dragged into the war by a gang of militarists who didn’t represent the nation

    Shimazaki-san, above, has explained this very well already (and in the past, too) so I will be brief.
    Abe’s main purpose for this speech was not to mollify the unreasonable neighbors, but to gain approval ratings in (mainstream) Japan so that he could push the security bill, a bill that western democratic nations all agree with (see how I dissed the ROK here?). It wouldn’t make sense to play the militaristic card here.

    > Pretty hard to square kamikaze raids and ritual suicide with that

    Oh boy, here is where I wish Prof Kelly would at least read up a little on Japanese culture and history, before making his glib comments. Maybe start with your basic “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” by Ruth Benedict?

    > The idea that Japan’s use of force in the first half of the twentieth century was to prevent Western domination of East Asia has a been a right-wing historiographic trope in Japan for awhile

    Again, not to say that I agree with that historiography wholeheartedly, but there is a reason why the “trope” lives on.
    Let me give you a quote:

    “(Japan’s) purpose, therefore, in going to war was largely dictated by security.”

    Do you know who said that? Some Japanese right-wing nut?
    Nope. That was none other than Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (highest in command of the Tokyo Tribunal), before a US Senate hearing in 1951. End of discussion, right?
    Well, if you are still not convinced, read Judge Pal’s dissent at the Tokyo Tribunal.
    Or, if you want perspectives on how IJA “liberated” Asia, read stories from the independence movements from, I don’t know, Indonesia, Burma, India. Read the accounts of the reception at the original Bandung Conference, etc.
    Again, you could criticize that I am cherry-picking information, and surely to some extent, I am. But wouldn’t you agree that, at least there is legitimate (international) debate on Japan’s intentions on entering the war, other than colonial aggression?

    >blatantly aggressive moves like Pearl Harbor.

    Sure, Japan should be condemned for the “surprise” attacks without an “official” declaration of war. I will not delve deep into the politics of it all (ABCD Line, Hull Note, Roosevelt’s platform, etc.), but was Pearl Harbor “blatantly aggressive”?
    Tokyo firebombing: 100,000 civilian casualties
    Hiroshima: 140,000 civilian casualties
    Nagasaki: 70,000 civilian casualties
    Pearl Harbor: 54 civilian casualties

    Again, no, I am not defending Japan’s actions, and comparing death tolls is certainly crass, but you know, Pearl Harbor was an act of war against a military target.

    >Nanjing

    Well, this is a huge topic, that I cannot do justice to today. However, let me present to you the following list.

    Second Sino-Japanese War Chinese Casualties (Official numbers as given by the Chinese government, ON THE RECORD)
    1945: 1.32 million
    1948: 4.38 million
    1950’s: 10 million
    1970: 18 million
    1985: 21 million
    1998: 35 million

    Again, death tolls are no laughing matter, but really, are we going to believe any account of what these people say?
    That is all.

    >Unit 731
    Finally, something that has at least some amount of credibility that can legitimately shame Japan.
    Although the hard evidence is slim (and that can be due to the perpetrators allegedly selling all information to the US in exchange for their freedom, and of course good luck in getting the US to admit to that deal and releasing the info if that were true), it would make common sense that any advanced military of the time had a program to study mass destruction/bio/chemical warfare, including Japan.
    So, instead of saying that war sucks, everyone else was doing it, the sheer numbers of casualties pales in comparison to other things, a humanist would own up to Unit 731, offer apologies and compensation.

    >the comfort women system (which was empire-wide, not just in Korea)

    We’ve debated the comfort women issue in the comments of other recent posts, so I mostly refer you there.

    I do want to ask what Prof Kelly means by “empire-wide, not just in Korea”. Are you saying that there were comfort stations everywhere, including Korea? Well Korea wasn’t a war zone so no, comfort stations did not exist there. Were there regular brothels in Korea? Sure, prostitution was legal, as it was for most countries then, as it is now for many countries today. (As an aside, isn’t it telling when Amnesty International today is pushing for legalized prostitution? Message: prostitution is a necessary evil. Again, my disclaimer is that I personally think prostitution sucks.)

    If Prof Kelly is saying that women were systematically coerced by force on direct orders from the military, again, we have to say that there is no evidence for that anywhere, including in Korea. Were there isolated incidents where rogue individuals (including Japanese military officers) disobeyed orders and forced women into prostitution? Yes, there are newspaper articles, arrest records and court martial cases for that. But the narrative (for us) is that these are evidence of a) the military being AGAINST forced coercion (some of these people got executed for their crimes), and b) even if you add all the documented incidents up, and maybe extrapolating the numbers, we are still talking somewhere in the 100s for the number of victims, certainly not 200K, and not sanctioned by the Japanese military / government.

    >Bataan

    Is Bataan really the example we want to showcase to depict unprecedented levels of Japanese brutality? It may have name value, and it certainly was an atrocity, but 2,300 died out of 76,000 POWs. While that certainly ain’t great, if it didn’t involve Americans, I would guess that the outcry would be far far less. Again, not to make light of the suffering caused, but do people realize how long the march was? It was 25 miles for some, 60 miles for others, over 3 days.

    > It’s pretty revealing of the gap between Japan and the rest of the world on this that atom bomb drop was mentioned twice, while the most the comfort women got was an oblique: “women behind the battlefields whose honour and dignity were severely injured.”

    I would have to disagree. I think it shows the big gap between some Americans (including Prof Kelly) and the rest of the world.
    I refer again to the Dissentient Judgment of Justice Pal from the Tokyo Tribunals:
    “if any indiscriminate destruction of civilian life and property is still illegitimate in warfare, then, in the Pacific war, this decision to use the atom bomb is the only near approach to the directives of the German Emperor during the first world war and of the Nazi leaders during the second world war. Nothing like this could be traced to the credit of the present accused”

    I say “some” Americans, because the latest poll by YouGov shows that especially the younger generation of Americans think that the a-bombing was a mistake.
    “Among under-30s, 45% say that it was the wrong decision while 31% think it was the right decision. People aged 30 to 44 are divided on the issue, while most people aged 45 or above say that it was the right decision.”
    Conversely, in a Gallup poll from August 1945, 85% of Americans were for the bombing, and 10% opposed.
    I would like to believe that this is proof that the newer generation can judge both sides of the argument for themselves, looking at the facts.

    BTW, in another Gallup poll around the same time? 23% of Americans said that MORE a-bombs should have been dropped before Japan had a chance to surrender. I know it was right after the war and all, but man, the US has got some nerve to accuse anyone of moral deficiency.

    >Good grief. All this kinda makes you wonder what the Japanese put in their textbooks…

    Doesn’t it?
    Hmm. Oh yeah, there is a pretty well publicized Stanford University research project on that very topic, comparing US, Japanese, Chinese and Korean textbooks.
    Let’s go check out some of the findings, before making any disparaging comments, shall we?

    http://news.stanford.edu/pr/2014/pr-memory-war-asia-040414.html

    “In Japan, most of the textbooks are factual and not overly nationalistic”.
    and
    “America engages in its own myth-making. It tends to portray itself as an “innocent abroad” without any culpability and that its troops were “fighting the good war.””

    All this kinda makes you wonder what the Americans put in their textbooks.
    Doh, but I already know what kind of nonsense they put in the McGraw Hill textbook.
    http://19historians.com/?p=42
    Isn’t it telling that these historians are reasonably asking nicely to change the egregious errors (not even asking to change the narrative) and they still were called visceral revisionists?

    Snark aside, I do hope that everyone (myself included) would take Prof Sneider’s (the author of the Stanford research paper) warning to heart:
    “Students are asked to confront the possible bias of their own historical memory and to be more critical consumers of information”.

    • Well your writing is a clear that you have adopted the revisionist outlook on history where Japan was not a master of its own fate and was bullied by Western powers. Let me tackle your points one by one.

      “Oh boy, here is where I wish Prof Kelly would at least read up a little on Japanese culture and history, before making his glib comments. Maybe start with your basic “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” by Ruth Benedict?”

      I don’t understand what you mean here. It was clear to anyone that Japanese propaganda during World War 2 promoted and encouraged kamikaze raids and ritual suicides. Wasn’t one of the slogans “100 million dying together” promoted by Imperial propaganda?

      > “Or, if you want perspectives on how IJA “liberated” Asia, read stories from the independence movements from, I don’t know, Indonesia, Burma, India. Read the accounts of the reception at the original Bandung Conference, etc.
      Again, you could criticize that I am cherry-picking information, and surely to some extent, I am. But wouldn’t you agree that, at least there is legitimate (international) debate on Japan’s intentions on entering the war, other than colonial aggression?”

      Being from Asia i.e not China and Korea, I can say that the Imperial Japanese Army played a role in the independence of many Asian countries. However this does not mean that this was Japan’s intention. Japan waged war to achieve regional hegemony over Asia. If anything it is similar to what the Soviets had done in Eastern Europe, which was to secure hegemony by the placing compliant regimes and stationing troops in those countries.

      >”Again, no, I am not defending Japan’s actions, and comparing death tolls is certainly crass, but you know, Pearl Harbor was an act of war against a military target.”

      Nowhere did Prof Robert Kelly equate Pearl Harbor and the bombings of Tokyo, Hiroshima etc. Besides bringing them up is irrelevant too. There were more German deaths than British deaths due to aerial bombing yet I don’t think anyone would question that the Germans committed aggression first.

      >”Is Bataan really the example we want to showcase to depict unprecedented levels of Japanese brutality? It may have name value, and it certainly was an atrocity, but 2,300 died out of 76,000 POWs. While that certainly ain’t great, if it didn’t involve Americans, I would guess that the outcry would be far far less. Again, not to make light of the suffering caused, but do people realize how long the march was? It was 25 miles for some, 60 miles for others, over 3 days.”

      Actually you are wrong. Possibly 21,000 POWs died on the March. You also trivialize their deaths and suffering

      >”As for the “victim narrative”, I just don’t see it. Abe was reflecting on the 3 million compatriots who perished during the war. It is victim narrative because he talked about his own people before talking about the suffering caused in other countries? Abe just said, war sucks, people suffered (domestic and abroad), and we should never walk down that path again. That sounds pretty pacifist. He didn’t say, boo-hoo Japan, US should apologize, China had it coming. Now, that would be victim narrative.”

      Actually it is victim narrative as it forgets the fact that those deaths would not have occurred had Japan not engaged in colonial aggression. To compare with Germany, I don’t hear Germany emphasizing the fact that they lost millions of civilians, lost territory that was part of Germany historically, had millions of ethnic Germans expelled where hundreds of thousands if not millions died, war rapes and other atrocities by the Red Army and was divided by the victors. Instead they emphasize the genocide and war of aggression that they committed.

      >>Unit 731
      I don’t get this point from you. Nobody is condemning Japan for having a biological/chemical weapons program. Unit 731 is condemned precisely because the Japanese had engaged in human experiments and showed a clear disregard for human life.

      > Comfort women
      I don’t know why you bring up the Asahi Shimbun and the comfort women. They admitted to the false information but alas they had disregarded that information long ago. Indeed neither the UN report on comfort women nor the report to the US Congress used that as a source. Your targeting of the Asahi Shimbun story is cherry-picking.

      You clearly have not adopted Prof Sneider’s warning to heart:
      “Students are asked to confront the possible bias of their own historical memory and to be more critical consumers of information”.

      Instead you have adopted the narrative of those Japanese who wish to deny or minimize the atrocities done

  3. In the spirit of facing up to and acknowledging biases, I have been reflecting on how I came to be, and what my own biases are. I share this, not only in response to hitokiri198’s criticism, but in hopes that this example motivates every one of us to take a critical look at oneself.
    Or not, I guess, but that is how it goes.
    Well, don’t worry, my usual rants will follow the introspection…

    As you may have noticed, I have a very strong pro-Japanese bias. I am a proud Japanese citizen, proud of our culture and history. By no means I think that everything about our country and history is rosy, but on the other hand, I don’t buy that we are especially evil, even in our darkest hours. And if you take those dark years (the first half of the 20th century give or take) away? I would say that comparatively, we actually have a pretty good track record of abiding by normally (at the time) accepted standards of human welfare. That is my bias.
    So, what about those dark years? As with any rational person, I hope that I can own up to any shortcomings or past acts and make apologies and reparations where I can, and would hope that our country as a whole would act the same.
    On the other hand, I will get defensive when I feel as though our image is being tarnished unfairly. Is there a bias to that? Of course there is. But is that bias enough to make me an immoral person? I think that you could be biased but moral at the same time. Let me try to explain.

    I tried to put into a spectrum, my take on different bias levels, especially in the context of processing historical information. Top to bottom, I made the spectrum into 5 levels like this:
    1. Completely fair and unbiased
    2. Educated and intelligently biased
    3. Innately biased
    4. Willfully ignorant
    5. Liar and fabricator

    1. Completely fair and unbiased
    Simple enough as an ideal, but in practicality, impossible to achieve. We all have some baggage we can’t be separated from.

    2. Educated and intelligently biased
    Have you looked closely at both sides of the argument, including any underlying themes?
    Have you looked at the empirical evidence, and employed critical thinking?
    Are you open and willing to looking at counter-evidence and criticism, and judge them rationally?
    Can you produce empirical evidence to support your stance?
    Are you willing to engage in a fair debate?
    If all of these are true, then, congrats, you broke through Level 3, and I think you’ve achieved this tier of the spectrum.

    3. Innately biased
    I think this is where we ALL start out. Whatever the situation you are born to, be it your nationality, family, education, available media, propaganda, etc, we all grow up with certain influences that shape the way we think and feel. Are these views biased? Most certainly.

    4. Willfully ignorant
    Basically, the flip side of Level 2.
    These days, it is so easy to find all sides of the argument, and also find good primary evidence, as long as you have a good BS meter to judge credibility.
    If even at the plea of the opposition, you still choose to ignore empirical evidence, do not produce any of your own, then we are getting closer to Level 5.

    5. Liar and fabricator
    This is pretty easy. Think CCP and NK, basically.

    My experience is that I see our opposition stuck in Level 4 or worse a lot of the times. I try to pose the kind of questions I raised in my description of Level 2, but usually end up with a non-answer. Not that I am always successful, but my personal goal is to try to engage in any reasonable opposing views to the best of my abilities and knowledge, and many times I do not feel the same urgency from my opponents. I would love to stand corrected if there is reason to believe that I am wrong (and no, I do not do this for a living, so yes, there are many points where I am probably wrong).
    The opposition’s usual retort is that I am biased and am engaged in cherry picking. That argument is not valid, because I am already admitting pretty freely that yes, that is the case. Both of us are biased. At the same time, both of us could be right.

    Let me give you an example (mind you, I am no legal expert, the example is descriptive only).
    Scenario 1: I am driving on a road and I hit and kill a pedestrian.
    Just from that, the responsibility and blame seems to be on me.
    Scenario 2: You find out that the pedestrian suddenly jumped out onto the road out from behind a tree, it was physically impossible for me to react.
    Now, where does the responsibility and blame lie? There should be some (if not all) placed on the pedestrian, no?
    Scenario 3: I was speeding a little bit. My excuse though, was, “well everyone else speeds on that stretch of road”.
    I am able to produce evidence that yes, everyone else does speed on that road.
    Scenario 4: I had had a beer before driving.
    Now the blame is squarely back on me, right?
    Scenario 5: My BAC was below the legal limit
    .
    You can see how assigning responsibility and blame can get murky pretty quickly.
    Assuming that I am acquitted:
    If the victim’s family starts going around the neighborhood afterwards, saying that I am a killer, is that slander?
    If the victim side does not divulge to the neighborhood that the victim jumped out onto the road, do we call that cherry-picking information?
    Is my excuse that “everyone else was speeding” tu quoque?
    If I choose not to apologize because I was acquitted, do you call me morally defective?
    If those same neighbors start condemning me, but they speed down that same road all the time, at higher speeds, what do we call that?

    I am not expecting any answers to these. There may be legal interpretations, but that would never completely take care of biases and hence, emotions. Like in this case, there can be two very reasonable opposing views and only one fact. Can there ever be a reconciliation? Usually, there are fair and neutral arbitrators to aid that process. In absence of that, we just may have to agree to move on.

    But if you are telling lies, or making silly assumptions? (Like saying I must have been driving at 120mph, or that the breathalyzer must have been broken?)
    Then, I have to take my gloves off, and the fight is on.

    So, here we go, hitokiri198.

    >Let me tackle your points one by one.

    No, you most absolutely do not tackle my points one by one. You tackle the points that you can attack, while conveniently ignoring the ones that you have no response to. See, how selectivity and framing works? You are trying to convey the perception that ALL of my points are groundless.
    Again, I am not criticizing you for this, this is pretty standard tactics. Just pointing out what you are doing.

    >It was clear to anyone that Japanese propaganda during World War 2 promoted and encouraged kamikaze raids and ritual suicides.

    OK, I see your point. I was not trying to say that propaganda had nothing to do with it. Sure it did.
    I was trying to say is that there were other forces at work, namely unique Japanese cultural influences. So I encourage people to learn about them, because it may explain a few things that may not be apparent to you if you are from a different culture, instead of making generalizations based on what your influences are.
    Again, I am not criticizing the generalization part. We all do that. It is when you are called out on it, but don’t make amends, I have a problem with that.

    >I can say that the Imperial Japanese Army played a role in the independence of many Asian countries. However this does not mean that this was Japan’s intention.

    Great, you agree that we played a role. Thank you.

    I can see how people may compare the intentions of Japan as similar to any other colonial aggressor.
    I can point to a few pieces of evidence to the contrary.

    Please read the following, as proposed by Japan for inclusion into the Covenant of the League of Nations at the Paris Peace Conference:
    “The equality of nations being a basic principle of the League of Nations, the High Contracting Parties agree to accord, as soon as possible, to all alien nationals of States members of the League equal and just treatment in every respect, making no distinction, either in law or in fact, on account of their race or nationality.”
    This clause of course, was shot down by the British and US.

    You know that in peace treaties after the war, the first article states the biggest spoils that the victors want, right?
    Well, here is the Treaty of Shimonoseki, concluded after the first Sino-Japanese war:
    “Article 1: China recognizes definitively the full and complete independence and autonomy of Korea, and, in consequence, the payment of tribute and the performance of ceremonies and formalities by Korea to China, that are in derogation of such independence and autonomy, shall wholly cease for the future.”
    We wanted independence for a country that is not our own.

    Or, what about the first sentence of the Declaration at the Greater East Asia Conference?
    “It is the basic principle for the establishment of world peace that the nations of the world have each its proper place, and enjoy prosperity in common through mutual aid and assistance.”

    OK, again the critics will most likely say that there were sinister reasons for Japans words and actions, the intent was different, and that these were all blatant propaganda. They will point out documents such as “An Investigation of Global Policy with the Yamato Race as Nucleus” as counter-proof. And I can see that viewpoint too.

    However, is dismissing this all simply as sinister propaganda the ONLY viewpoint possible?
    I am just trying to offer a different perspective.
    Read the evidence, and you be the judge.

    >Nowhere did Prof Robert Kelly equate Pearl Harbor and the bombings of Tokyo, Hiroshima etc. Besides bringing them up is irrelevant too.

    No, neither did I. I just asked whether the “blatantly aggressive” moniker was a fair one. It is these kinds of sweeping comments that propagate misunderstanding of the facts.
    My bias says that it was not blatant act of aggression. It was an act of war. Could have been carried out better? Sure.
    Is comparing PH to the bombings, relevant. Maybe not, but my bias saw it as relevant to show that PH was not blatant aggression.

    Again, I encourage people to make their own assessments, but do not be swayed by other people’s biases.

    >Actually you are wrong. Possibly 21,000 POWs died on the March. You also trivialize their deaths and suffering.

    OK, a disagreement over death tolls.
    Just a crude search on Wikipedia says:
    “about 2,500–10,000 Filipino and 100–650 American prisoners of war died before they could reach their destination. The reported death tolls vary, especially among Filipino POWs, because historians cannot determine how many prisoners blended in with the civilian population and escaped.”

    So I stand corrected. My number was a tiny bit lower than the low estimate. That is my bias, and I apologize.
    What about your number though? You are twice the high-end. Is there historical evidence for that?

    As for the trivialization, I do apologize if my words were offensive to anyone. My condolences to any deaths and suffering caused.

    Let me tell you a story though. I grew up in the US education system. Regarding the Bataan Death March, I had ingrained in my head a picture of miles and miles of walking day after day, and I am guessing that a lot of people have that image. The first time I found out that the march was at most, 60 miles over 2 days? I was flabbergasted. I just wanted to share that surprise, for people who may have had the same bias.
    Then I found out that Japanese soldiers in full gear, escorted these POW under the same circumstances, on foot. I read most of the accounts of mistreatment was for getting smacked for not keeping up (corporal punishment, sadly was not uncommon in IJA, even to their own men). Can we frame this as willful disregard for the humane treatment of POWs? Sure we can. Can we frame it as an inevitable procedure of transportation given the circumstances? I think reasonable people can feel that way. Can we showcase it as an act of unprecedented brutality by the Japanese? I personally am not so sure, and I don’t know whether you want to make such a definitive comment, but again, you can be the judge of that.

    >Actually it is victim narrative as it forgets the fact that those deaths would not have occurred had Japan not engaged in colonial aggression.

    OK, I have argued elsewhere about whether this was “colonial aggression”, so I will leave that be here.
    But really, I have read and heard the Abe statement multiple times since, trying to clear my head of any biases. I still cannot see where it forgets that the deaths and suffering would not have happened without Japanese initiation. It emphasizes peace, for sure, but what is wrong with that? If it was framed as “Abe Apology”, I may see your point, but, I don’t know, maybe my bias is too strong.

    If you are comparing to Germany, please provide references and comparisons as evidence. Everything that I have read (admittedly little), to me, looks more like placing the blame on the Nazis, and not taking responsibility as a nation, so we can have a debate about who is shouldering the blame better. I can be persuaded.

    >Unit 731 is condemned precisely because the Japanese had engaged in human experiments and showed a clear disregard for human life.

    I agree.

    >Indeed neither the UN report on comfort women nor the report to the US Congress used that as a source.

    That is not what I thought, but I will check my references for sure, and I encourage you to as well.

    In any case, can you dispute that the Yoshida confession was the most publicized of the primary accounts of mass abductions? Can you point me to an alternate source that did as much to further the current narrative of sex slaves than Yoshida? Maybe Honda Katsuichi, but I would not call that primary evidence.

    >Instead you have adopted the narrative of those Japanese who wish to deny or minimize the atrocities done

    Again, I leave it up to everyone to face their own biases, and make a judgment for themselves.

  4. Pingback: Shinzo Abe, historical revisionism and the Japanese Right. Part 1. | asiaamericademocraticalliance

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