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Apology not accepted
October 19, 2011 - Stephen Browne
"Thank you for dropping bomb. Hey, we thought we were kicking butt!" - Japanese comedienne Tamayo Otsuke
Journalists pouring through the Wikileaks revelations have recently brought something rather odd to light.
President Obama has in various speeches from Cairo to Latin America gone out of his way to apologize for America's past behavior. Now it appears that a while back he offered to apologize in Japan for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
That's not odd, many people think nuking two of their cities when Japan was obviously on the ropes in WWII was a crime against humanity.
What's odd is the Japanese government told him not to apologize, according to U.S. Ambassador John Roos.
According to a cable from Roos revealed by Wikileaks, Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009 “the idea of President Obama visiting Hiroshima to apologize for the atomic bombing during World War II is a ‘non-starter.’ While a simple visit to Hiroshima without fanfare is sufficiently symbolic to convey the right message, it is premature to include such program in the November visit.”
Various explanations have been offered for this refusal. The Japanese government does not want to fuel radical anti-Americanism in their own country. They are particularly careful to maintain the Japanese-American alliance at a time when China appears to be entering a militantly expansionist phase, etc.
Or it could be that Japan just doesn't want to get into a "pot calling the kettle black" bind.
Casualty estimates for the Hiroshima bombing range from 90,000 to 160,000. Estimates for Nagasaki range from 60,000 to 80,000, for a combined total of from 150,000 to 240,000.
One reason for the spread between the lower and higher figures comes from the difference in counting immediate deaths from the initial explosion and later deaths from injuries, radiation sickness, disease, etc. But taking the high end figure as accurate there is another statistic that has to be considered.
In the "Nanking Massacre" or "Rape of Nanking," starting on on December 13, 1937, soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army killed somewhere between 200,000 (estimate of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East) to 300,000 civilians and prisoners of war (official Chinese estimates.) And they did it up close and personal, with bullets, rifle butts, swords, burying alive, and ways I can't describe here.
Total Chinese casualties due to the Japanese invasion are estimated to be on the order of 20 million.
I'd imagine the Japanese government probably doesn't want to open that can or worms.
There is something a lot of well-meaning people, who in my humble opinion seem to see the world as they wish it to be, not as it is, fail to consider.
I am reminded of a time I was at a conference in Lithuania in the early '90s. For those who don't know, there is a lot of historical tension between Poland and Lithuania for reasons that would probably seem incomprehensible to most. But because I lived in Poland at the time, from time to time I got an earful.
One lady academic said to me, "You know the Armia Krajowe (Polish resistance army during WWII) committed a lot of atrocities here!"
My reply was somewhat less than tactful, but then I'd been getting a bellyful of the Old World's ancient hatreds.
"And the first troops to march into the Warsaw Ghetto to begin the massacre of the Jewish resistors were the Lithuanian SS division," I said. "There is enough guilt to go around!"
I don't think I've ever said it better any clearer. I'll apologize for my own sins Mr. President, and they are enough to keep me occupied for a while. I don't need to borrow trouble for historical wrongs, there is just too much history.
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