Sinister Efforts to Minimise Japanese War Crimes and Portray the Empire As a Victim Must Be Exposed

ASIA--PACIFIC, 7 Apr 2014

Robert Fisk – The Independent

The man known as Abe’s ‘brain’ says Japan has become ‘a hopelessly pacifist nation’

I had to go to California to learn that Michiko Shiota Gingery, who lives in the Central Park area of Glendale City, suffers “feelings of exclusion, discomfort and anger” because her local authority unveiled a memorial to the innocent Asian women turned into sex slaves by the Japanese Imperial Army.

These “comfort women”, the Japanese military’s repulsive euphemism for the victims they turned upon with such sexual sadism, were gang-raped, used as prostitutes and often butchered by Japanese soldiers during their occupation of Korea and China in the late 1930s, in the early years of what was for them – but not for us – the Second World War. These women – the few ageing survivors and the many dead – are a symbol of Japan’s wartime disgrace.

Now you would have thought, wouldn’t you, that these poor women (forced into mass prostitution by the Japanese army and government over many years) had themselves suffered “feelings of exclusion, discomfort and anger”? But no, it’s poor Michiko Shiota Gingery, presumably of Japanese origin, who’s all upset at the Glendale monument to this most appalling of Japanese war crimes. Furthermore (a gritting of teeth is necessary here), a joint lawsuit claims that Glendale City – a peaceful and intensely boring suburb of greater Los Angeles – has exceeded its power by infringing on the US government’s right to conduct America’s foreign policy; thus “the monument threatens to negatively affect US relations with Japan, one of this nation’s most important allies…”

Since we are a family paper, I will merely say that statements of this kind are identical to the material that comes out of the rear end of a bull. But it’s all of a kind. Turkish Americans bleat that Armenian-American monuments to the 1915 Armenian genocide – the world’s first holocaust – upset good “relations” between the US and Turkey. Which is why the spineless Obama still, despite his pre-election promises, will not acknowledge that the Turks deliberately killed one and a half million Christian citizens of the Ottoman empire.

If the Germans started to deny the truth of the Jewish Holocaust, I suppose it would only be a matter of time before the anti-Semites of Europe lined up to express their “feelings of exclusion” every time they saw a memorial to Hitler’s war crimes.

But when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shames himself and his country by wandering through the Tokyo Yasukuni shrine, what else can we expect? I’ve been to Yasukuni myself, a place of cherry trees and blossoms and a museum to honour the memory of the 2.5 million Japanese soldiers, kamikaze pilots, rapists and war criminals who died in the Second World War. I had a cousin who died building the Burma railway and so I was greatly interested in the real steam loco shunted into Yasukuni, the very first engine to use that infamous track. It carried home the ashes of the first Japanese soldiers to die in Burma. No doubt Abe enjoyed his little trip to honour the murderers of Imperial Japan.

Sure, Japan has apologised for the little matter of the “comfort women”. But why, according to the Chinese, has Yasukuni received 60 visits from Japanese prime ministers between 1945 and 1985, including six visits made on 15 August, to mark the date of Japan’s surrender? The 1937 rape of Nanking – in which tens of thousands of Chinese women were raped and at least 100,000 killed – is being turned into part of “a self-defensive holy war”; school textbooks now try to depict Japanese aggression in the 1930s as the “liberation of backward nations”. The Japanese Education Minister is proposing to reject textbooks that do not adopt a “patriotic tone”. When the US hears that Palestinian textbooks include Israel as part of “Palestine”, American officials roar like bears. But when the Japanese do far worse, the Americans turn into mice.

Yasukuni’s purpose is to minimise Japanese war crimes and portray the expansionist Japanese empire as a victim. That’s what Abe wants do to. He’s spending more on his country’s military. The man referred to as Abe’s “brain”, the former diplomat Hisahiko Okazaki, says that Japan has become “a hopelessly pacifist nation”. Now that China is a newly emergent military power – and challenging Japanese ownership of the Senkaku Islands – Abe’s rewriting of his country’s outrageous occupation of China takes on a far more sinister quality.

One of the best British political scientists on Japan, James Stockwin, has expressed grave concern at Abe’s visit to Yasukuni. A retired Oxford academic, Stockwin is no Japan-hater; just a decade ago, the Emperor of Japan awarded him the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays (with neck ribbon), no less. But he speaks frankly of Japan’s atrocities in the Second World War and finds it “quite extraordinary … that Abe should use this juncture to visit the Yasukuni shrine, a gesture he must know would be regarded as highly provocative by China”.

In an iconoclastic moment, Stockwin suggested that China and Japan should jointly bulldoze into the sea “these useless pieces of real estate”.

But there is a far darker side. Last year, the Japanese passed the Designated Secrets Act, which applies a prison sentence of 10 years to journalists and whistleblowers who give publicity to “state secrets” – and five years for those who ask questions about secrets! This document, as Stockwin says, “runs counter to some of the most basic principles of democracy”. There have been protests against it. And how did the secretary general of the governing party characterise the protesters? They were “terrorists”, of course.

Emperor Hirohito himself – along with Admiral Yamamoto and all the old war-mongers – would have approved. Long live the Greater South-east Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Speak not of Nanking. Set course for Pearl Harbour. That should put paid to all that exclusion, discomfort and anger in Glendale City.

A reminder that Russia was once the good guy

Staying with World War Two, “Stalingrad the movie” has an American version (Enemy at the Gates), a German version (Stalingrad) and now Fyodor Bondarchuk’s Russian version (Stalingrad again).

Jude Law’s portrayal of sniper Zaitsev and his love affair with a Soviet radio translator got howled down in the Russian Duma. The German film showed the Nazis at their worst but had the Wehrmacht leave Italy for Russia on a modern electric train.

Bondarchuk’s fearful 130-minute epic, which I watched in Canada last week, beats them both. Partly based on the diaries of Vasily Grossman – by far the finest Soviet writer of the Second World War, way ahead of anything by Solzhenitsyn – it follows  the last days of a platoon of Red Army soldiers and seamen confronting Friedrich von Paulus’s Sixth Army in the wrecked home of a lone Russian girl.

Her family have all died but she refuses to leave her bombed house; Mariya Smolnikova’s portrayal of 19-year-old Katya is breathtaking.

In a war movie of immense violence, she is as close to perfect as a refugee whose soul is both mutilated by war and ennobled by struggle – because she underplays every moment.

At a time when we all hate Russians again – Ukraine, the Crimea – it’s worth being reminded of a time when they were the good guys and when Hitler thought he represented “Western civilisation”.

Not a bad film then, especially – as someone  said – if you want to know what it’s like to be shot in the throat.


Robert Fisk, based in Beirut, is a multiple award-winning journalist on the Middle East and a correspondent for The Independent, a UK newspaper.  He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

Go to Original –


Share this article:

DISCLAIMER: The statements, views and opinions expressed in pieces republished here are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of TMS. 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. TMS has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is TMS endorsed or sponsored by the originator. “GO TO ORIGINAL” links are provided as a convenience to our readers and allow for verification of authenticity. However, as originating pages are often updated by their originating host sites, the versions posted may not match the versions our readers view when clicking the “GO TO ORIGINAL” links. This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

One Response to “Sinister Efforts to Minimise Japanese War Crimes and Portray the Empire As a Victim Must Be Exposed”

  1. satoshi says:

    In August 1993, Yohei Kono, the then Chief Cabinet Secretary, made a statement on comfort women as follows. Let me quote it from the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Japan. (Source:


    Statement by the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on the result of the study on the issue of “comfort women”

    August 4, 1993

    The Government of Japan has been conducting a study on the issue of wartime “comfort women” since December 1991. I wish to announce the findings as a result of that study.

    As a result of the study which indicates that comfort stations were operated in extensive areas for long periods, it is apparent that there existed a great number of comfort women. Comfort stations were operated in response to the request of the military authorities of the day. The then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women. The recruitment of the comfort women was conducted mainly by private recruiters who acted in response to the request of the military. The Government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing coercion, etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments. They lived in misery at comfort stations under a coercive atmosphere.

    As to the origin of those comfort women who were transferred to the war areas, excluding those from Japan, those from the Korean Peninsula accounted for a large part. The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese rule in those days, and their recruitment, transfer, control, etc., were conducted generally against their will, through coaxing, coercion, etc.

    Undeniably, this was an act, with the involvement of the military authorities of the day, that severely injured the honor and dignity of many women. The Government of Japan would like to take this opportunity once again to extend its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.

    It is incumbent upon us, the Government of Japan, to continue to consider seriously, while listening to the views of learned circles, how best we can express this sentiment.

    We shall face squarely the historical facts as described above instead of evading them, and take them to heart as lessons of history. We hereby reiterated our firm determination never to repeat the same mistake by forever engraving such issues in our memories through the study and teaching of history.

    As actions have been brought to court in Japan and interests have been shown in this issue outside Japan, the Government of Japan shall continue to pay full attention to this matter, including private researched related thereto.


    It is still unclear whether Abe’s government follows the above statement. Some Japanese officials are skeptical about if comfort women existed during the WWII/Asian-Pacific War. Even some others claim that “comfort women” joined at their own free will (not forced by the Japanese Military authorities).

    Furthermore, the drafter of the Kono Statement claims that there was no records of military coercion in recruiting ‘comfort women’. Asahi Shimbun on 21 February 2014 reports as follows:



    A former senior official who helped draft the 1993 Kono statement of apology to wartime “comfort women” said no direct evidence was found to support assertions that the Japanese military played a coercive role.

    Nobuo Ishihara, a former deputy chief Cabinet secretary, said Feb. 20 that the military’s involvement mentioned in the statement was based on witness accounts, not documents.

    “None of the materials available to us backed up the allegations that the Japanese government and military were directly involved in coercive recruitment,” Ishihara said as an unsworn witness at a Lower House Budget Committee session. He was responding to questions by Hiroshi Yamada of the opposition Japan Restoration Party.

    Ishihara said the statement was issued at a time when pressure was increasing to strengthen relations with South Korea.

    In August 1993, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono released the statement apologizing to former comfort women who were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers at front-line brothels during World War II.

    The statement acknowledged the Japanese military was involved either directly or indirectly in the installation and operation of “comfort stations,” and the transport of the women.

    According to Ishihara, the roots of the Kono statement can be traced back to 1991, when a group of former comfort women from South Korea sued the Japanese government. In response, Koichi Kato, chief Cabinet secretary under Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, released a statement that said Tokyo would not take any action.

    South Korea reacted angrily and called for Japanese government investigations into the matter. But the welfare ministry, responsible for handling war-related issues, said it possessed no relevant documents.

    Ishihara said he asked other ministries to gather materials on the issue, but no documents turned up showing that the women were forced into the brothels.
    Kato announced the findings in another statement, but Seoul called for additional investigations.

    After Kono replaced Kato as chief Cabinet secretary, the investigation continued, but still no records were found to corroborate allegations that the women were forcibly recruited.

    South Korea asked Japanese officials to listen to what the women had to say.

    Tokyo agreed to interview 16 former comfort women in hopes of breaking the impasse and improving relations between the two countries.

    “Some of the comfort women testified that government authorities were involved in the recruitment process,” Ishihara said. “We relied on those accounts to finalize the Kono statement.”

    Ishihara said despite the women’s testimonies, Japan still did not have any definitive materials to back up their allegations.

    “We settled on the expressions that we used in the (Kono) statement because we decided it could not be ruled out that government authorities were involved with the recruiting agents,” he said.



    Is it pessimistic (or optimistic) to think that one can expect any positive outcome or seed from Abe’s government on those issues, by the way? Abe himself is a grandson of Nobusuke Kishi, who, as the Minister of Commerce, signed the Declaration of War against the United States before the Perl Harbor attack in 1941, who was indicted as an A-class war criminal after the War by the Tokyo War Crime Tribunal, who became the Prime Minister of Japan (1957-1960), and who worked as a supreme advisor to the LDP after that until his death in 1987? Now, Abe, the head of the LDP, is the Prime Minister as his grandfather was. What does Abe’s hawkish style on national security and on East Asian issues imply?

    The search for the truth on comfort women has only just begun. It is late (nearly sixty years after the War) but not too late. And when the truth is revealed, it should not be used for the political game of relevant countries; it be used for a precious lesson for the future, for creating a better international relations of those countries. Learn from the past and build up favorable international relations for the future in the international community. But, one of the first steps for all that is to look for the truth on this issue. Dicuss the issue openly.