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Comfort Women

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The level of denial in Japan over forced prostitution, rape, and colonized Korean “comfort women” in World War II is remarkable. Instead, the Japanese government’s narrative is that Japan is the victim in this story. Yeah, right. Between Germany and Japan, I know which one I’d put my money on as potentially being a threat to their neighbors again. Although I’d put my money on neither.

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  • efgoldman

    The official narrative in Japan is fast becoming detached from reality

    So, they’re TeaHadi Republicans, then.

    • heckblazer

      Pretty much the Japanese version, yes. Though perhaps weirder; far right groups often have associations with the yakuza, and the yakuza have a goodly percentage of Koreans. Imagine La Eme holding Tea Party rallies and you see what I mean by “weird”.

      • CP

        Wow, you learn something every day. I did not know that many yakuza had Korean ancestry and suppose it might help to explain why they’d go into crime rather than something more legitimate (barriers to advancement in legitimate society on account of their not being Japanese).

        I had heard about the right wing ties, though. Don’t they have a side gig as unofficial street muscle for the powers that be, in addition to their criminal activities? I’d heard they had sort of a Mafia-meets-Pinkertons thing going…

      • CP

        Addendum: actually, this is something I used to wonder about. Organized crime/gang activity in the West is often associated with immigrant or marginalized groups, for obvious reasons (limited opportunities in “good” society, shitty government services, general hostility towards your group, all of which help encourage the outlaw networks since playing by society’s rules doesn’t seem to get you anywhere) – even the American Mafia came from a group that used to be treated much like Mexicans are today. So I used to wonder what the equivalents to that were in (I thought) more homogeneous societies like Japan – what kind of marginalization the yakuzas sprang from, if it wasn’t ethnically based.

        I guess the answer is that it is ethnically based, after all.

        • Jackov

          The yakuza are drawn from the burakumin (~outcasts) which evolved out of the feudal caste system. In modern times, ethnic Koreans are a large component of the burakumin and therefore the yakuza (estimated at 10-30%) but ethnic Japanese are still the majority.

          • CP

            Thanks for the explanation.

            Same question about a neighboring country, in case anyone knows – do the Triads in China have a similar origin?

    • CrunchyFrog

      At some point in studying various cultures of the world you come to the conclusion that the portion of the population that we now refer to as wingnuts in the US is present in every human population everywhere. It appears to be a genetic component of humanity and to have evolved very early in species development. You’d think that in the long and varied span of human history there would be some instances in which the wingnuts managed to, through rage and fury, kill all of themselves off in some ill-advised war. And there are a few remote tribes here and there where that may have happened and the survivors are predominantly of collaborative, empathetic natures – but in most cases through interbreeding the wingnut genes appears to have been revived and to thrive. At the same time, the wingnut genes also never survive as the majority of the population, probably because doing so insures their self-destruction.

  • The Dark Avenger

    They aren’t the only ones who get their fee-fees hurt when the subject comes up:

    But an appeal has now been filed by Michiko Gingery, a Glendale resident and a member of an organization that works to challenge recognition of former comfort women, and Koichi Mera, a Los Angeles resident.

    The plaintiffs began protesting the statue before it was built and continue to push for its removal, charging that Glendale infringed upon the federal government’s exclusive power to conduct foreign affairs and that the statue made them feel excluded from the park.

    City Atty. Mike Garcia said he was disappointed an appeal was filed.

    “The case is meritless and the district court’s opinion is a well-reasoned analysis,” Garcia said in an email. “We will vigorously defend the city’s interests on appeal.”

    • “an organization that works to challenge recognition of former comfort women.”

      Good lord people can be evil.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        stupid, too. probably more people will learn about comfort women from their lawsuit than would actually see the statue

      • heckblazer

        GAHT-US is the American branch of a Japanese revisionist organization, The Global Alliance for Historical Truth (site is in Japanese). The membership are Japanese resident and/or naturalized in the US, so really it’s the same bunch of people.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          reminds me of the cuban exiles…

        • mikeSchilling

          The Japanese version of the Institute for Historical Review.

          • heckblazer

            With the key difference that the US doesn’t have a Holocaust denier as president.

    • Origami Isopod

      The denialists are out in force in the comments.

  • duck-billed placelot

    Not just Korean women. Also, I spent a little time in Nanking, and the ‘small but vocal minority’ of Japanese nationalists who deny that whole affair are not considered a minority by many people in China. That hatred is deep and abiding.

  • matt w

    Between Germany and Japan, I know which one I’d put my money on as potentially being a threat to their neighbors again.

    Depends on what kind of threat you mean. Germany has been using its dominant position in the Eurozone to destroy its neighbors’ economies for a few years now.

    But yeah, Japan’s official attitude toward its wartime crimes is disgraceful.

    • efgoldman

      But yeah, Japan’s official attitude toward its wartime crimes is disgraceful.

      You mean, like, waterboarding? Or sensory deprivation? Or holding someone for more than a decade in a third country, on a small tropical island, without trial?
      Wartime crimes like that?
      Thanks to Darth Cheney and his merry band, it’s hard for Japan, or anyone else, the take the US seriously as a moral arbiter, at this particular time in history.
      Doesn’t excuse any other country’s crimes, but still….

      • Cheerful

        What’s our Nanking or Death March?
        Systematic abduction of women into forced prostitution?
        Starving prisoners of war accompanied by periodic decapitations?

        • bargal20

          Cheney and many other Americans still maintain no crimes occurred. Your President Obama says we must look forward and forget about justice for the victims of American crimes or even an honest, open accounting of them. Maybe the Japanese took his message to heart and applied it to themselves.

        • duck-billed placelot

          How about the Trail of Tears? Actual death march, check. Systematic abduction of women/children, check. Starving prisoners, decapitations – ok, I don’t know about decapitations on a massive scale, but how about scalping? Ask modern First Nations folk how well we’ve taken ourselves to account for that genocide.

          • xq

            The US doesn’t deny the Trail of Tears.

            • djw

              Yeah, if anything you could make an argument that the Trail of Tears perhaps looms a bit too large in our historical account of our mistreatment of Native Americans relative to more recent (and more plausibly rectifiable) misdeeds; but the case that there’s denial or minimizing on this issue seems profoundly implausible.

        • mud man

          Not to mention the transportation and enslavement of generations of Africans. Oh I forgot, that was The Confederacy, not Real America. Anyway that was black people.

          • Aimai

            Well, this blog is so very well known for refusing to look at or discuss issues of racism, sexism, capitalist oppression, war, torture, or other mayhem committed by the US that we really can’t expect any better. Maybe someday one of our blog hosts will post on Native American, African American, Islamic, or Worker’s issues. We can but dream.

            • I for one have never ever written a blog post on the horrors committed by the United States. Certainly not in my first post this morning especially.

            • Jean-Michel

              Obviously it is impossible to take a principled stand against Bad Things regardless of who perpetrated them, so we should limit our condemnation to Bad Things committed by the U.S. Or maybe the U.S. is the only country that does Bad Things.

              (Similar logic is commonly found among revisionists and denialists. In Japan you frequently see ultra-nationalists pointing to China’s problematic official history—viz. the Great Leap Forward, the civil war, 1989, etc.—to “prove” that China can’t be trusted when it comes to the Nanjing Massacre or Unit 731 or what have you. When somebody responds to “Country X did Bad Thing A” with “But Country Y did it too, so there,” I tend to assume the person has an agenda beyond simply drawing attention to the Bad Things done by Country Y.)

          • Ronan

            This is a pretty weird complaint.
            I remember one of my first comments at LGM was something along the lines of ‘why do you people never talk about class issues’. Good Lord.

        • heckblazer

          Don’t forget the slavery, cannibalism and vivisections with anesthesia. It’s very, very hard to match either the scale or brutality of Imperial Japan in the Pacific War.

          • bargal20

            Stupid Japanese. Why couldn’t they just destroy the records of their crimes like the CIA did?

            • Origami Isopod

              For fuck’s sake. So because the U.S. did bad things, that lets everybody else off the hook?

              • John F

                According to some people, yes.

          • heckblazer

            that should read “without anesthesia”.

        • DrDick

          Hiroshima, Nagasaki, firebombing Toykyo and Dresden.
          My Lai, Haditha, Faluja, No Gun Ri.
          The Pequot War, The Powhattan War, the Yamassee War, the Trail of Tears, the Battle of the Washita, The Sand Creek Massacre, the Marias Massacre.

          The list goes on and on and on.

          • cpinva

            “Hiroshima, Nagasaki, firebombing Toykyo and Dresden.”

            now you’re operating on the way margins. if the US had had a functioning atom bomb in april, 1945, it would have been dropped on berlin. with respect to all the bombings listed, yes, very horrible, and borne out of desperation to end the war, on both fronts. bearing in mind, a land invasion of japan would probably have cost 10-20 times the number of lives lost in both Hiroshima & Nagasaki combined. the Japanese military, while Okinawa was still being fought, had already started organizing civilians into units, armed even with wooden/bamboo spears, to resist the expected allied invasion. these units included old men/women/children, all of whom would have died as a result.

            this was the very same military responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent non-combatants, in every area they conquered, with the rape of nanking being just the most infamous. so, if you’re expecting me to feel even a twinge of guilt for those particular events, move along and find someone else silly enough to buy into it. we don’t even need to delve deeply into Nazi Germany’s crimes against humanity, they’re much more well documented.

            • DrDick

              They were still acts of terrorism and war crimes under prevailing law.

              • John F

                Yes, but we don’t deny that they happened, we quibble on details and argue over justification, but we don’t deny that we did those things- with far-rightists in Japan you don’t get attempted justifications you get flat out denial

            • Stag Party Palin

              Hmm. The firebombing of Dresden was not “borne out of desperation to end the war.” It was revenge, pure and simple. Understandable, yes. But not noble.

      • Brett

        EDIT: Never mind.

      • matt w

        You mean, like, waterboarding? Or sensory deprivation? Or holding someone for more than a decade in a third country, on a small tropical island, without trial?

        Well, at least I didn’t have the most egregious derailing off-topic post in the thread!

        Anyway, yes, US War Crimes: Also disgraceful, and something I’ve been condemning since it started happening, so I don’t see why I personally am disallowed from saying something pretty anodyne about Japan’s war memory. And “who’s more disgraceful” isn’t a contest I’m interested in.

      • djw

        Oh FFS.

  • Brett

    It’s pretty fucked up that the Comfort Women scheme is not even the worst or second-worst thing that Japan did to the civilian populations of East Asia in the 1930s and 1940s.

    • bargal20

      Don’t look back. Look forward! It worked for the USA in regard to the Philippines.

      • bargal20

        And according to US popular culture and Bruce Springsteen and possibly you, the real victims of US aggression in Vietnam were the American troops.

        I lose count of the number of American progressive tears I’ve seen shed over American victims of agent orange.

        • Jhoosier

          So are you saying that US troops in Vietnam don’t deserve any sympathy for being affected by Agent Orange?

          • Origami Isopod

            Seriously – the way to call attention to U.S. atrocities in other countries is not to imply that any and all troops sent overseas are war criminals who signed up for it and therefore deserve any PTSD, TBIs, or other injuries they got. Lots of young adults sign up for military service because their economic prospects suck hard, and to not acknowledge that is rank classism.

            • timb

              Or, in the case of Vietnam, you know, they didn’t actually “sign up,” as much as their govt offered them a choice between going or jail

              • cpinva

                a draft might have made a difference to the bush administration’s desire to start wars. I think it should be brought back, for everyone, not just males. when everyone’s at risk, the administration is going to be forced to come up with a better reason for starting a war than the bush admin. did.

                • witlesschum

                  That’s a very charitable view of human nature, which I’m going to say is wrong. You think that a.) the U.S. would design a fair draft and b.) our rulers wouldn’t feed their own children into the mill. I don’t think either of those assertions are on solid ground.

              • Origami Isopod

                Yeah, that too.

            • Jhoosier

              My feelings exactly.

        • DrDick

          Both the Vietnamese and the American troops, most of whom were poor and minority conscripts, were victims of elite warmongers in the US. I have known a lot of guys who were over there and none of them wanted to be there, hated what they went through, and most came back firmly anti-war.

  • Lee Brimmicombe-Wood

    I married a Japanese woman and love the people and country, but the actions of their Establishment sometimes makes me spit.

    Everyone here, and I mean EVERYONE should at some point in their life go to Tokyo and visit the Yushukan museum next to the Yasukuni Jinja. It is the Japanese Imperial War Museum and it’s dedicated to the grand lie. Great whopping big lies, in fact, all labelled in perfect English.

    You’ll see the story of how Japanese fought off the threat of white domination of the Pacific (starting with Tsushima) and how the Empire was a beacon to the Asian peoples. You’ll read how FDR engineered the Pacific War. You’ll see China War propaganda movies presented as documentaries. And finally you see a display lionising the victims of war crimes trials and the nod given to Asian ‘liberators’ such as Suharto and Pol Pot and Marcos who were inspired by Japan’s example.

    This is the official narrative made concrete. Its gift shop is full of volumes denying the Rape of Nanjing. The whiff of the jackboot is everywhere.

    I defy any of you to visit and not come out in a rage, wanting to grab the shirt-front of the first Japanese you meet and scream at them.

    • heckblazer

      My understanding is that the problem with Yasukuni is that it’s run by a private organization. I’ve heard the situation described as something like Arlington National Cemetery being owned and run by the John Birch Society.

      • LeeEsq

        It was one of the unforeseen consequences of separating religion and state in Japan. Since the Imperial War Museum is officially collected to a shinto shrine and the Shinto establishment tends towards being nuts when it comes to politics you get really interesting stuff.

        • Lee Brimmicombe-Wood

          That’s ‘interesting’ in the Japanese sense of ‘distasteful’.

      • Jackov

        The Brits were smart in establishing their War Museum so it only covers from the Great War forward.

        • DocAmazing

          Is there an exhibit on the Troubles?

          • There is.

          • Jackov

            Previously, there was a small section in the literal and figurative basement on Terrorism in the “Conflict Since 1945” section but that appears to have gone by the wayside with the remodel. The website blurb for the “Peace and Security:1945 to 2014” exhibition does not sound promising nor does the timeline of Ireland Post-1990.

            From Britain and Europe after the Second World War through to the Cold War and the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, Peace and Security reveals how conflicts have been fought and communities divided in places such as Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan from 1945 to the present day

          • The IWM website seems to underplay the extent of their coverage of Northern Ireland, from what I remember from visiting it in August.
            The IWM has quite a large collection of artifacts, personal accounts, art-work etc. from Northern Ireland, but some of that is currently in a touring “Art of the Troubles” exhibition.

    • Jhoosier

      I took my folks there when they came to visit. My father immediately grasped the propaganda, but to this day fails to recognize the myriad narratives in American popular history for what they are.

      • CP

        Having two nationalities, this is something I notice a lot among the conservatives in both families (and more generally both countries). Extreme smugness and superiority when you’re talking about the other country’s racial problems, extreme defensiveness, self-righteousness and general outrage at “false equivalencies” when talking about your own.

        I suppose “it’s okay when I do it” is pretty much the First Commandment of conservatism, but it still makes for quite a sight.

    • KarenJo12

      That makes an interesting contrast to the way Germany treats Dachau. I was there in 2013, and they don’t whitewash what happened at all. The short film is clear and open about what happened and that the neighbors were willfully blind.

      • ExpatJK

        I agree with this. I’ve been to Dachau and it is the complete opposite of Yushukan.

      • CP

        I think the Germans are pretty unique in terms of the vast majority of the population accepting, full stop, that yes, these things happened, yes, they were terrible, and yes, it’s important to remember them so that they never happen again. (Which isn’t to say that a ton of that isn’t due to what the Allied occupation forced on them at gunpoint, of course).

    • ExpatJK

      Oh that museum is so hideous. It was enraging. The only nod that things might not have been so awesome for those treated to the wonders of Japan’s kindness in the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was a reference buried somewhere to a Korea “incident” and a China “incident,” neither of which were provided with much detail beyond that vague description. It is, without a doubt, the worst war museum I have ever visited.

      The cherry on this rotten cake is that Yasukuni Jinja is one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, shrines in Japan. Then there is this repulsive museum ruining it.

    • John F

      You’ll see the story of how Japanese fought off the threat of white domination of the Pacific (starting with Tsushima) and how the Empire was a beacon to the Asian peoples.

      This was Japan’s great screw up. You see the Japanese COULD have been “a beacon to the Asian peoples,” except the Japanese militarists seemed intent on establishing that they could be even worse than the European imperialists had been.

  • LeeEsq

    Out of all the Axis powers, Germany made the most amends and Japan the least. In Italy, you have this weird situation where everybody claims that their ancestors were anti-fascists of various sorts. There are apparently so many people with anti-fascist ancestors in Italy, one wonders how Mussolini was able to take over in the first place. Nobody seemed to have supported him.

    Japan never made amends because it really did not have to confront its past the way West Germany did because of the geo-political situation after World War ii. In Europe, West Germany had many nearby neighbors that weren’t going to let Germany forget what happened that easily. East Germany was quite happy to say that Nazism was entirely West Germany’s fault because their leadership could get away with it during the Cold War. Like Italy, everybody in East Germany was a descendent of a good anti-Nazi Communist working class person. Japan was also able to maintain a high level of deniability because of the Cold War. There was no way that the PRC and North Korea could get Japan to confront the past as Communists. South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines , and other non-Communist countries were political and economic basket cases that were too weak to make Japan confront the past either.

    • Jhoosier

      The Allies should’ve tried a lot more of the government, as well as the zaibatsu families (the industrial conglomerates that still seem to run half of the country).

      • LeeEsq

        I am not sure that would have much of an effect besides being the right thing to do. My belief is that Japan’s failure to accept and deal with their militarism during the 1930s and 1940s has more to do with Cold War geo-politics and that the other non-Communist nations in Asia were basket cases. There simply weren’t any victims of the Japanese Empire that were in position to agitate for recognition in the way that Jews and other victims of Nazism could make the Germans recognize what they did.

        • djw

          At least some of this is at least in part a product of different approaches during the post-war occupation, right? Germany committed heinous crimes because a new and specific evil arose in the country that needed to be destroyed root-and-branch via ‘denazification’ whereas Japan’s crimes were associated with generalized cultural backwardness/lingering feudalism, to be cured by accelerated modernization and progress, in the form of land reform, dismantling the Zaibatsu, women’s rights, etc.

          • Lee Rudolph

            Did our post-war occupation try anything to cure the plight of the burakumin (my new word for the day!)? On the one hand, I’d like to think that the New Dealers referred to elsewhere in these comments would have wanted to help them; on the other hand, I can imagine that America’s own racial/ethnic problems might have made that harder than “land reform, dismantling the Zaibatsu, women’s rights”. This discussion so far suggests that someone here will know the answer.

            • LeeEsq

              The New Dealers in charge of reforming Japan were probably unaware of the burakumin. Technically, the burakumin status was already abolished by the Meiji government in the 1870s. Reality was different but it wouldn’t be surprising if the American occupiers had no idea about it.

              • Aimai

                Anthropologists were (supposedly) extensively used in crafting some aspects of the surrender and the occupation so I doubt that people knew “nothing” about the burakumin.

          • LeeEsq

            There might be some of that but many of the Allied powers saw Germany has having a militaristic-feudal culture that resulted in Nazism. Its why Churchill was so insistent that Prussia be abolished as a cultural, political and geographic entity. He thought that Prussian culture was the main driving force behind German militarism.

            Germany might have seen as more developed and less militaristic/feudalistic than Japan but not entirely so. The Junkers and Prussia were abound in Allied interpretations of Nazism.

            • Lurker

              It was not only a cultural thing. Prussia was a huge state. It covered about half of the German area and population, and probably more than a half of the German economy. Any democratic German federal state with Prussia intact would have been completely Prussian-dominated. (In fact, the drafters of the Weimar constitution recognised this and proposed scrabbing the states altogether to get a better representation for non-Prussians. Other states disagreed.)

              Now, most of former Prussia is something else, like Mecklenburg-Vorpommern or Rheinland-Pfalz, and only the small and poor Brandenburg, the homeland of the Hohenzollerns, fondly remembers Prussia.

          • ExpatJK

            Also, the level of linguistic and cultural knowledge among the occupying forces in Germany was way higher than in Japan. It’s been ages since I read John Dower on this, but I seem to remember him talking about how the US occupation authorities were much more in the dark in Japan in that way. As such their ability to do some kind of “de-Nazification” equivalent was limited from the get go. Then of course the US’ hope for a big Pacific ally, China, doesn’t pan out and Cold War politics necessitates a change of course.

            • djw

              I think it’s Dower where my hazy recollections originate as well. (Also reading about film censorship, which was clueless; the goal was to censor any anti-American message, but virtually any degree of subtlety got that through, but seemingly innocuous stuff, like images of Mount Fuji, were censored for being “too feudal”)

              • ExpatJK

                He’s pretty much the authority on this as far as I know. Though it has been ages…

      • LeeEsq

        The zaibatsu were dismantled during the American occupation. The American occupation also introduced other democratic reforms like abolishing school uniforms on the grounds that they were militaristic. Its just that after the occupation ended, the LDP reversed as many of the reforms they thought they could get away with.

        • CP

          The only class I ever took on China and Japan mentioned that there was a brief postwar period during which it looked like Japanese society might be getting seriously restructured along New Dealish lines – but that, Cold War oblige, the Americans authorities thought better of it, reversed course and facilitated the creation of the Iron Triangle setup that continued after.

          • LeeEsq

            Most of the officials put in charge of Reconstructing Japan were earnest New Dealer types. Its why Japan’s constitution is really liberal, complete with a declaration on gender equality.* The politics of the Cold War did cut the Occupation short but I also think America did as much with Japanese society and government as possible. We can’t eliminate the negative parts of Japanese society with New Deal reforms anymore than we can write a law and get rid of American feminism.

            *I actually think this provision hurt the cause of Japanese feminism more than it helped by allowing Japanese men to pretend they have gender equality because its in the Constitution. When you combine that with a lack of rights agitation politics in Japan, Japanese feminism had some really big obstacles that feminists in other developed countries did not have.

        • Jackov

          The occupation also introduced American troops to the …
          comfort station.

          Taking all they had learned from their sexual slavery efforts during WWII, the Japanese government established the RAA to serve American GIs in the hopes of preventing the rape of “daughters from good families.” Thus the 65+ years of coercion based sex trade catering to US troops in Asia was born.

          • The Dark Avenger

            Thank you for reminding us that the U.S. needs to get the fuck out of Okinawa.

            • Lee Rudolph

              The Japanese might consider getting out of Okinawa, as well.

              • LeeEsq

                Most Okinawans are pretty assimilated into Japanese society these days. The number of Okinawans that want independence are probably minuscule.

                • Lee Rudolph

                  The ever-reliable Wikipedia suggests (maybe) otherwise.

                • heckblazer

                  It’s certainly not a coincidence that most of the American bases ended up being on the islands that, while Japanese, weren’t considered as Japanese as the rest of Japan.

              • John F

                Okinawa/Okinawans may have issues with Japan and their treatment by Japan, but they’d really have worse issues with today’s China than today’s Japan.

    • Lee Brimmicombe-Wood

      Italy is a fascinating case. Unlike Japan or Germany, where the countries slid into despotism and the mass of people could make a strong case that they had little influence over events, Italians were forced to make a decision on 8 September 43 and in the weeks after. Were they for or against fascism? Did they stand with the Resistance or the RSI? To whom did oaths of allegiance bind them? King or Duce? Or both? It was hard for Italians of that generation to say they had no choices at all.

      I highly recommend Claudio Pavone’s ‘A Civil War’ on this subject. The choice was not clear cut. There were anti-fascists who stood with the RSI because they felt bound by oath and honour. There were soldiers who happily marched into German captivity because they felt their honour demanded it. Or fascists who knew their cause was doomed, and yet continued because of some romantic ideal of fighting the Bolshevists and Anglo-Americans.

      In other words, it’s a bloody mess, and Pavone charts the divisions because of how they were parsed in post-war politics.

    • mikeSchilling

      France too. If you believe everyone, the Resistance was about 500% of the population.

      • Lee Rudolph

        Their strength was as the strength of ten, because their hearts were pure!

      • ExpatJK

        See also white US southerners and the civil rights movement.

      • PorlockJunior

        A pity, and a source of sorrow to many.

      • CP

        The nice thing about being from anywhere that isn’t Germany is that you get to toss everything bad that happened into the vaguely labeled category “collaborators,” which easily gets simplified into “just a few unpatriotic traitors who were traitors because they were unpatriotic,” and from there into French (or Flemish or Dutch) for “the Germans made us do it.”

        Which isn’t entirely wrong, but it’s too easy to forget how deep the collaboration went and how many people were frankly quite happy to have the opportunities the Third Reich gave them. Conservatives were screaming “better Hitler than [France’s Socialist and Jewish prime minister] Blum!” long before the 1940 defeat.

  • j_kay

    Japan since the Shinto was like Britain – a democratic empire, plus jealous enough of Britain to conquer too fast, except behind ethically.

    Italy was really anti-fascist, for war was LONG unpopular there. Unhappiness with being in WW1’s how they went from democracy to fascism. So, being in another war cannot’ve helped. z

  • pigmund

    I always find it a little strange how often the subject of the Japanese refusal to own up to the history of Korean comfort women comes up. I find it to be in the character of many (certainly not all) of the Japanese I have had in my life, friends, girlfriends, tutors to be blind to many of Japan’s flaws. It definitely does seem to spring from a cultural chauvinism that relates to being a very insular culture.

    However, awful the history of the comfort women issue is, and it definitely was a large atrocity of World War II, there are so many atrocities for which governments and the people of these nations that committed war time atrocities have never been expected to take account. Often for events that I find much more atrocious. I never hear English/British people being asked to account for their Prime Minister murdering between 2 and 4 million Bengalis in WWII through government induced famine. Maybe living in Los Angeles, I just hear a lot more about this particular atrocity concerning Korean comfort women due to the presence of large Japanese and Korean communities nearby. But I do think that most of the victors of WWII aren’t ever held to account for their atrocities.

    In so far as Japan is not constitutionally capable of engaging in another war, and the British and Americans do engage in wars frequently enough, it seems that the danger of Japan being blind to its past is less problematic than for the British or Americans. Although it would be nice if Japan finally does own up to it completely.

    • Aimai

      Well the British never were held to account for the god damned Irish Famine and it happened right next door to them so I can see why they can ignore the Bengali one.

    • It doesn’t seem entirely fair to blame the British for the incompetence of locally-elected provincial governments of Bengal and the neighbouring states.

      • pigmund

        “The War Cabinet received repeated warnings that famine could result from its exhaustive use of Indian resources for the war effort—and ignored them.

        The Japanese occupation of Burma in March 1942 cut off rice imports, of between one and two million tons per year, to India. Instead of protecting the Indian public from the resultant food shortage, the War Cabinet insisted that India absorb this loss and, further, export rice to countries that could no longer get it from South East Asia. As a result, after war arrived at India’s borders, the colony exported 260,000 tons of rice in the fiscal year 1942-43.

        Meanwhile India’s war expenditures increased ten fold, and the government printed paper money to pay for them. In August 1942 a representative of India’s viceroy told the War Cabinet that runaway inflation could lead to “famines and riots.”

        In December 1942, Viceroy Linlithgow warned that India’s grain supply was seriously short and he urgently needed 600,000 tons of wheat to feed soldiers and the most essential industrial workers. The War Cabinet stated that ships were not available. In January 1943, Churchill moved most of the merchant ships operating in the Indian Ocean over to the Atlantic, in order to build up the United Kingdom’s stockpile of food and raw materials. The Ministry of War Transport cautioned him that the shift would result in “violent changes and perhaps cataclysms” in trade around the Indian Ocean. (In addition to India, the colonies of Kenya, Tanganyika, and British Somaliland all suffered famine in 1943.) Although refusing to meet India’s need for wheat, Churchill insisted that India continue to export rice.

        With famine raging, in July 1943 Viceroy Linlithgow halted rice exports and again asked the War Cabinet for wheat imports, this time of 500,000 tons. That was the minimum required to feed the army and otherwise maintain the war effort. The news of impending shipments would indirectly ease the famine, he noted: any hoarders would anticipate a fall in prices and release grain, causing prices to fall in reality. But at a meeting on August 4, the War Cabinet failed to schedule even a single shipment of wheat for India. Instead, it ordered the buildup of a stockpile of wheat for feeding European civilians after they had been liberated. So 170,000 tons of Australian wheat bypassed starving India—destined not for consumption but for storage.

        Meanwhile, the United Kingdom’s stockpile of food and raw materials, intended for shoring up the postwar British economy, reached 18.5 million tons, the highest ever. Sugar and oilseeds overflowed warehouses and had to be stored outdoors, under tarpaulins.

        Of course Churchill knew that his priorities would result in mass death. In one of his tirades against Indians, he said they were “breeding like rabbits” anyway. On behalf of Indians, the War Cabinet ignored an offer of 100,000 tons of Burmese rice from freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose (who was allied with the Japanese), discouraged a gift of wheat from Canada, and turned down rice and wheat volunteered by the United States.

        The War Cabinet eventually ordered for India 80,000 tons of wheat and 130,000 tons of barley. (Barley was useless for famine relief because it had no impact on prices.) The first of these meager shipments reached India in November. All the while, the Indian Army consumed local rice and wheat that might otherwise have fed the starving. The famine came to an end in December 1943, when Bengal harvested its own rice crop—at which point Churchill and his friend Cherwell renewed their demand for rice exports.”
        -Madhusree Mukerjee

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