Agreeing the Past Never Happened: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Congress

Next week, on April 29, at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will speak to both houses of Congress. He will be the first Japanese prime minister to speak to a joint session of Congress, and the first to address either house since 1961.

Boehner has said, “His address will provide an opportunity for the American people to hear from one of our closest allies about ways we can expand our cooperation on economic and security priorities. That, of course, includes working together to open markets and encourage more economic growth through free trade.”

Abe will have a summit with President Obama on April 28 and his trip will last until May 2. The rise of China has given both countries, close allies since the end of World War II, much to talk about, and the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership will no doubt be a hot topic as well.

It should be, in one respect at least, a happy meeting: both Shinzo Abe and the Republican Congress embrace historical revisionism; that is, re-purposing the past to be more congenial to the needs of the present. For example, Abe has preferred to blame China for tensions between the two countries rather than acknowledge Japan’s long history of aggression (1931-1945) against China.

John McCain, who is constantly changing his views of the past, and sometimes even of the present, loves himself some Abe, and in January, was happy to see him in Israel.

Granted, McCain’s handshake is cheap, since he will even shake hands with Islamic terrorists. So his judgment must be questioned when he says things like, “I’m a great admirer of Mr. Abe. I’m very happy with our strategic partnership. Our military relationship is excellent.”

Obviously, America wants Japan to be able to defend itself. Abe wants to change Japan’s post-war constitution to enable his country to engage in collective defense, and earlier this month, the two countries agreed to expand their security ties. Japan can defend itself, but it must be very careful how it goes about doing so.

It has been 70 years this year since Japan’s bid to launch what it called the “Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere” came crashing to the ground after four years of war, relentless firebombing of Japan’s cities, two atomic bombs, and a Russian declaration of war.

After Emperor Hirohito announced surrender on August 15, Japan formally surrendered on September 2, 1945, which followed Germany’s May 8 surrender by several months. We hear a great deal about the Holocaust and the tens of millions who died at the hands of the Nazis. We hear far less about the millions of civilians killed by the Japanese Empire.

And that is exactly how the nationalist Abe wants it. Which is no doubt fine with the Republicans, who, after all, have made their careers lying about America’s sometimes dark past (e.g. slavery). Abe acts like a man who knows he has to say sorry, and publicly must actually be sorry, but who privately, thinks facts are an inconvenience.

For example, the uncongenial fact of Japan’s use of women in occupied territories as “comfort women” (sex slaves) for the use of the troops. Abe has apologized for this, but he wants a 1996 United Nations report to go away. He wants the report revised, which is his way of basically saying Japan’s 1993 apology was a mistake.

China and Korea are naturally unhappy with the direction Abe has taken. Pearl Harbor and the Bataan Death March may be better known to Americans, but those countries were Japan’s primary victims. American veterans are upset, and all concerned want a formal renunciation by Abe of Japan’s predatory ways.

In the words of South Korea’s foreign ministry, Abe must use his speech before Congress to “show sincere repentance for the past.”

What price the truth? Japan and Korea being at odds is as inconvenient as facts right now, with the rise of China and tensions in the Far East. In March, US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russell said these tensions are a “strategic liability to all of us.”

But a future built on lies about the past seems unpalatable, to say the least, and no more secure. Though it is clear Abe must come clean on Japan’s heinous activities during the war, he is not alone. The United States has a great deal to own up to as well.

Not only should virtue never be a matter of convenience, but it must be recognized that fact is a better foundation than fantasy. If we are to confront the very real threat of China, we must confront the very real facts of our shared history.

And this is true not only of Prime Minister Abe, but our own Congress and Republican leadership. Rather than shared nods and winks, which affirm nothing but a commitment to deceit, let us acknowledge the mistakes of the past, and pledge to do better in the future.

Image: China Daily Mail

25 Replies to “Agreeing the Past Never Happened: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Congress”

  1. The USA, Japan, Turkey… what’s the difference, really? Germany is the only country which has shown the collective maturity to confront its past and own up to its crimes.

  2. Not only should virtue never be a matter of convenience, but it must be recognized that fact is a better foundation than fantasy.

    Praise JeeeZusssss!
    Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera.


  3. Republicans haver made their careers lying about slavery? How so? After all, the Democrats, who are the party of slavery, Jim Crow, and the KKK have still yet to formally apologize for slavery. I think it’s time that they did. Maybe Abe and the Democrats can do a joint apology before congress.

  4. What you conveniently overlook, erica, is history.

    A hundred fifty years ago I would’ve been a Republican. But the republican party chose to become the monstrosity it is now. Not all Republicans are racist, but if you’re racist- you fit in rather nicely into the Republican Party of the Here and Now.

    Ten conservatives who have praised slavery:
    See to the beam in thine own eye, Erica.

  5. America is at least TRYING to confront it’s past.

    Whereas we have to deal with the Republicans whinging about how “Obama is apologizing for America”.


  6. To be more honest Erica, conservatives have always been the party of slavery. Those old KKK guys were democrats, they’re republicans now.

    See, the sides switched jerseys.

    Not all republicans are racists, but it is the preferred party of racists.

  7. You mean the past JFK described….we will go anywhere, fight any foe in defense of liberty. Oh , I forgot we are leading from behind now.

  8. “leading from behind” is a Republicanism meaning if you don’t declare war, you are weak and not leading.

  9. They’ve wasted time and money investigating something called “BENGHAAAAAAAAZIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!!” 8 times.

    They’ve wasted time and money trying to repeal PP-ACA….56? 57? more? times.

    They wasted time, effort and money trying to prove Obama is really an Islamic Kenyan Communist monkey out to steal souls and guns from “good GOD!-fearing Christian AmeriKKKans.

    They shut down the government, costing the economy around $24,000,000,000 – just so Cuban-Canadian Cruz could raise a few million for his 2016 presidential campaign.

  10. DLW. Do some research idiot. Even though the southern Democrats then were racists and switched parties after the VRA and CRA of 64 and 65. Even with all that, not ONE, ZERO, ZILCH, NADA, not one southern Republican voted for the Civil rights act.

  11. Really, Germany is the only country in the history of the planet that has fully confronted its collective guilt over war and repression of others. The world still loves to joke about or even malign Germans for starting WWII, but they have in the end proven themselves a superior culture by owning up fully, and refusing to forget or downplay its mistakes. Unlike absolutely everybody else, who just don’t seem to have the guts.

  12. We should tie this guy, Erdogan, and Netanyahu together, tie them to a millstone and drop them in the sea.

  13. Yes, in case you were wondering: the Japanese government, below the Emperor, who was a puppet leader, were Fascists before and during WWII…
    It can be no surprise that the Fascist GOP wish to agree with PM Abe’s revisionist history slant :( ssmdh

  14. DLW You realize Lincoln wouldn’t be accepted by the GOP today, right? After the 1964 Civil Rights Act all those southern Democrats became Republicans. They’re the ones that voted against it. You don’t know your history very well do you?

  15. One southern Senator and 7 congressmen. Even so, more Democrats than Republicans voted for it. 97 southern politicians, both Democrat and Republican, voted against it.

  16. Now we all know you rely on the Center for Rectum-Based Facts to pull your tidbits right out of your a$$hole – but if you’re going to USE Pres. Kennedy’s words to try to make your point, they ought to actually BE Pres. Kennedy’s words:

    “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

    We all know you Repubicans just luvs, Luvs LUVS you some war – but Pres. Kennedy did NOT say we’d “go anywhere, fight any foe….”

    FACTS … they have such a LIBERAL bias.

  17. Hirohito never used the word surrender in his announcement to the people. He said they stopped fighting because the US used a terrible weapon that destroyed cities, he did not say surrender in fact no official that I have ever researched did, they signed a surrender statement on the USS Missouri but never to the nation did an official announce that the nation surrendered.

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