Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Sex Study Designed to Paper over History: Abe's Dilemma

Okay, Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Junior is failing the test of whether he can balance the views of right-wing monsters in his ruling party with common sense. In a jingoistic haiku of virtual holocaust denial, Abe made the audacious remark last week that the enslavement of Koran and Chinese prostitutes (“comfort women”) by the Imperial Army during the Pacific War was voluntary. The women weren’t coerced, he said. .

Predictably, the victims of Japanese war time aggression howled in protest. And justifiably so – credible and copiously documented research on the veracity of the army’s sex slave trade by foreign as well as Japanese historians proves the case.

So does the gripping testimony of many aging survivors of the rolling military brothels that followed marauding troops as they marched into China and Southeast Asia, old women who have overcome the shame of their past and risked ostracism in their communities to speak out after all these years.

Indeed, the Japanese government issued an apology in 1993 to victims of the brothels, But that went too far for the rabid nationalist fringe, which is still arguing that the United States baited Japan into World War II and Asia invited its would-be liberators.

So what does Abe do? He announces today, as a sop to critics of his brutish diplomatic blunder, that he appointed a special panel in his Liberal Democratic Party to investigate the matter. We can expect a muffled and indecisive whitewash of guilt or innocence by foxes probing the dried blood in the chicken coop, a half-baked revision of historical revisionism.

Don’t worry. Japan’s ship of state stays afloat on the superbly vague commitment to study contentious issues in a serious and forward-looking manner.

Abe will wait for the scandal to blow over and then put his finger to the domestic political winds. And in August there’s a good chance he’ll appease his power base by making an incendiary pilgrimage to Yasukuni Shrine. The old gods of imperial fascism still hold a death grip on Japan’s honesty and its credibility in international society.