Tuesday, May 5, 2015

That sought-after 'apology' from Japan.

Is it fair to expect incumbent Japanese leaders to perform the ritual of apologising for what Japan did in World War II? And to wring one's fingers because all that is tendered is remorse or repentance?

Yes, it's Abe's turn...

The much-praised model is Germany, which has confronted and condemned its Nazi past, and continues to remind its citizens of that dark period. I was told the family name Hitler (Heidler) has all but disappeared (although I cannot say this with certainty). The museums do not "rewrite" history or use euphemisms to describe discomforting policies...

But German leaders are not asked to continually apologise for their nation's militaristic past and crimes against humanity. Asking Japanese leaders to apologise for Japan's wartime deeds detract from the real issues: why are the remains of convicted wartime leaders still found at Yasukuni, why do contemporary Japanese leaders continue to pay visits to Yasukuni, and how is Japan's wartime record interpreted in the country's museums and remembrance sites?

Many young Japanese who have visited Singapore were surprised that wartime Japanese troops -- under orders from their superiors -- had committed atrocities on hapless civilians.

There is one final possibly disturbing question: how far up the chain of command did wartime criminal responsibility go? Posing such a question now may spark a spiral of national soul-searching (which the Germans did a long ago without diminishing, one must assume, national pride). Then again, such a probing question in Japan now may produce a defensive backlash. I do not think Japan or even its contemporary allies want to go there, given that a new era of destabilising nationalisms -- "my country, right or wrong!" -- infecting the world cannot be ruled out.

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