Equipo Nizkor
        Bookshop | Donate
Derechos | Equipo Nizkor       


Abe's war statement spurns reconciliation in favor of forward-looking spin

In a highly-anticipated statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave a lecture-style history on pre-war events and referred to "incidents" rather than aggression that devastated the lives of innocent people in victim countries, and ultimately failed to deliver the resounding apology the world was waiting for.

Abe, while referencing previous administration's war statements, such as former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama who offered what has become both a domestic and globally-accepted benchmark apology for the damage and suffering caused by Japan to its Asian neighbors during its aggression and colonial rule, which has been upheld by previous administrations in its entirety and wording until now, opted for his own wording, underscoring his revisionist ideology, ultra-right leaning tendencies and contempt for true reconciliation with countries brutally victimized by Japan during WWII.

Abe, a hawkish historical revisionist along with his handpicked rightwing cabinet, opted on this monumental day to semantically avoid reiterating the Murayama statement in its entirety, in favor of delivering a new statement that failed to resolutely apologize for Japan's wartime atrocities; offering grief instead of remorse and ostensibly blaming Western forces' actions for Japan's militarism, which Abe chose to describe as "incidents" rather than aggression.

"First of all Abe made it abundantly clear that his statement was based on the consensus reached by his expert panel of historians and scholars picked so that Abe could articulate how Japan wants to be viewed by the world in the future, based on its past. This is the very essence of historical revisionism that makes Abe and his administration so dangerous and misguided," political commentator and Shizuoka-based author Philip McNeil told Xinhua.

"His speech concluded -- and the point was reiterated in a Q&A session afterwards -- with his belief that it was correct to revisit history to make sure 'all the voices haven't been missed.' On the one hand, as any leading historian will attest, debate and deliberation over certain historical matters are essential, particularly those that are not well documented or remain equivocal, but in terms of Japan's aggressive actions during WWII this is unnecessary, as the facts are objective and incontestable. "

In consistently highlighting the fact that it was his panel that came up with the new statement, Abe was tacitly implying that he did not uphold the Murayama statement in its entirety, although reinforced the point that past administrations had, and that looking ahead the general premise of the previous statement was " unshakable."

But McNeil went on to say that the prime minister in taking this approach and merely repeating what had been said by administrations in years gone by, was ostensibly saying "all the right things" but only up until a point.

Naturally, the prime minister, whose support rate now hovers at around 30 percent, its lowest since he came to office for the second time in 2012, due to the public's disapproval over his lack of explanation of the country's biggest security shift in its post- war history and one that could see the scope of Japan's military drastically widened, said Japan "must never again repeat the devastation of war" and "never again resort to any form of the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes" and "abandon colonial rule forever and respect the right of self-determination of all peoples throughout the world," but the Japanese leader's apology was far from forthcoming.

"Abe repeated former pledges of 'deep repentance for the war' that Japan had made and the fact that Japan had, 'consistently upheld that pledge never to wage a war again,' but in terms of the prime minister's own sentiments, they were far more tepid than his predecessors," political analyst Teruhisa Muramatsu told Xinhua.

"He mentioned his feeling of grief, rather than remorse, and noticeably referenced aggression by Japan in WWII as 'incidents', failing to concede that WWII in terms of Japan's involvement was a war of aggression and brutal colonialism, aimed at ferociously expanding the Imperial Forces' territory, as is globally understood. The prime minister unabashedly pushed the revisionist notion that Japan was forced into war by Western diplomatic and economic moves," added Muramatsu.

Both analysts were quick to mention the fact that Abe, as well as his overall semantic gamesmanship, the proficiency of which has already been seen in his speech in the U.S. Congress this year, is not only looking to distance Japan from apologies and admission of atrocities as the Murayama era has so honestly adhered to, and in doing so helped to bridge the divide and go someway toward healing the pain of Japan's victim countries like China and South Korea, he's looking to close the door altogether.

Highlighting the fact that the postwar generations now exceed 80 percent of Japan's population, Abe said in his statement that, "We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize." As articulate as the prime minister is and while he talked of unbearable pain and emotional struggles brought on by Japan during the war, there was no mistaking the fact that, for Abe, history should remain in the past, as should Japan's apologies.

"His whole statement was based on repeating, or almost giving a lecture on the build up to WWII and how Japan was 'dragged in' and while the prime minister did concede that the nation had gone down a wrong path and in that era had devastated millions of innocent lives, the impetus of his speech was not on the atrocities or offering remorse to victim countries for Japan's acts of aggression during its colonial rule, but rather focusing on Japan' s future as a peace-loving nation and its future plans to act as a global contributor to peace -- in fact it was a carefully crafted PR campaign to promote the image of Japan looking forward, not an honorable reflection and apology for the nation's past," McNeil said.

He added the point could not be forgotten that as Abe waxed lyrical about "engraving in our hearts the past, when Japan attempted to break its deadlock with force," and "upon this reflection, Japan will continue to firmly uphold the principle that any disputes must be settled peacefully and diplomatically based on the respect for the rule of law and not through the use of force, and to reach out to other countries in the world to do the same," a legislative package is currently sitting in the upper house of parliament, which is almost certain to be enacted into law as early as next month, reversing Japan's seven decades of pacifism and allowing the country to once again remilitarize.

"Prime Minister Abe is a master spin doctor; he can stand in front of the nation and the world and condemn both the act and the means of war and promise that Japan will adhere to its pacifist principles for the good of the world and the future generations in Japan, yet at the same time, in an outright contradiction to everything he said Friday, the prime minister is essentially readying Japan's forces to be deployed under hugely ambiguous provisos, yet with a borderless jurisdiction," Muramatsu said.

"At best Abe's speech - its content and timing - was ironic, but as a matter of fact, it was predicated on a lie; as the last 70 years of constitutionally engineered peace in Japan are now, thanks to Abe, not guaranteed in the future as the constitution has been rendered meaningless. His lips may speak of peace, but his heart, as with Nobusuke Kishi's, a key military leader during WWII and Abe's beloved grandfather, beats to the rhythm of war," Muramatsu concluded.

[Source: By Jon Day, Xinhua, Tokyo, 14Aug15]

Bookshop Donate Radio Nizkor

Caso SS Totenkopf
small logoThis document has been published on 17Aug15 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.