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Japanese Whitewashing of the Past

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Nanking_bodies_1937

187 of the world’s most prominent historians of Japan have written an open letter to Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, urging that he stop whitewashing the atrocities committed by the Japanese during World War II. You can read the letter here. Of course, Japanese right-wingers refuse to allow this to happen, denying horrors ranging from the sexual slavery of comfort women to the depredations at Nanking. Abe has been pretty awful on these issues:

Earlier this year Japan took the unusual step of requesting the US textbook company McGraw-Hill to change its account of Japan’s wartime practice of rounding up women in occupied nations and providing them as sex partners for its soldiers. Abe himself has been part of an effort to suggest the women behaved in a voluntary manner in nations like Korea, and that local Koreans organized the military brothels, not Japan.

The 187 historians took exception with that revision:

“The ‘comfort women’ system was distinguished by its large scale and systematic management under the military, and by its exploitation of young, poor, and vulnerable women in areas colonized or occupied by Japan,” their letter said.

Incidentally, I just watched this documentary on Nanking earlier this week and I highly recommend it, disturbing as it is.

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  • Nobdy

    My understanding of the politics of this is that it’s an attempt to harness the power of that old saying “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Abe wants Japan to return to being militaristic so he wants to erase the lessons of what happened the last time Japan went down the militaristic route. It’s a real perversion of the concept Santayana was expressing.

    Not that the United States is any better, what with one of our major parties taking the position “Hey guys, slavery wasn’t that bad. Jim Crow? More like Jim Dandy! If Strom Thurmond had been president we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years!”

    It takes a certain kind of mind to look at history, realize the implications of the historical record, and respond not by changing your own plans or behavior but by trying to change the record to make what you want to do more palatable.

    • Origami Isopod

      It takes a certain kind of mind to look at history, realize the implications of the historical record, and respond not by changing your own plans or behavior but by trying to change the record to make what you want to do more palatable.

      Unfortunately it’s a very common kind of mind, absolutely pervasive in humanity.

      • The right-wing freakout over the new AP history standards for example.

        • cpinva

          this. as the saying goes, “the winners write the histories.” it turns out, those who buy in bulk have the clout to have those histories re-written.

        • Linnaeus

          What’s funny about that is that the new standards are probably, if anything, friendlier to the right wing. Not that they were ever hostile to the right, but the AP US History test has a new format this year (test day was yesterday, actually) and it’s pretty clear from reading the questions that the designers were responding to critics who thought the test was too “negative” and didn’t ask enough questions about the “foundations” of the US.

    • blowback

      And the United States hasn’t enabled Abe’s revisionist actions?

      • blowback

        Just like Reagan enabled Kohl’s unsuccessful attempt to whitewash the Waffen SS by laying wreaths in the Bitburg Military Cemetery.

        • joe from Lowell

          Is there any particular action the United States, or any figure in the United States, has taken that leads you to make this assertion?

          Or do you figure we just gotta, on the theory:

          This is bad.

          The United State is bad.

          Therefore we did this.

    • Domino

      Oh, something I know a decent bit about that’s not US politics.

      Part of Abe’s stance is that he gutted article 9 of the Constitution. Polling in the country shows that the public agrees with this move (roughly 55-45).

      Essentially there’s a shift in Japanese thinking – that “collective self-defense” is now not preferred, and that Japan should be allowed legally to be more proactive. It should be noted that Japan has been dominated by the LDP – they’ve been in power 48 out of the last 50 years. Of note – Japan, like the US, allows their rural population to be overrepresented in Government, and that’s part of their coalition. This despite the fact that the way the country is run, Prime Ministers have to resign all the time (it is kind of funny to look at the Wiki article to see how shortly some of them lasted).

      But as to why there’s been such a strong push in Japan to deny the psst? I’m not sure where that comes down on. Part of it is any country’s reluctance to admit wrongdoing. However in this case it goes beyond just that – the political right still wants to believe the GEACPS was legit, and not imperialism cloaked as concern for their Asian neighbors.

      If you want to get a sense of how pervasive and acceptable this attitude is in Japan, the mayor of Osaka 2 years ago said that “the system of comfort women, where up to (potentially) 200,000 Korean women were forced into sexual slavery to the military, was necessary to maintain troop discipline.”

      And what blowback did he face for saying such a thing? He narrowly avoided being censured for his remarks.

      He also is still the mayor of the 2nd biggest city (and my favorite one) in Japan.

      • Lee Rudolph

        But as to why there’s been such a strong push in Japan to deny the psst?

        I’d blame that on Breck-girl wannabes.

    • Linnaeus

      It takes a certain kind of mind to look at history, realize the implications of the historical record, and respond not by changing your own plans or behavior but by trying to change the record to make what you want to do more palatable.

      Along the lines of J. Otto’s comment, I’d say this mindset is probably more common than not.

    • malindrome

      “Abe wants Japan to return to being militaristic so he wants to erase the lessons of what happened the last time Japan went down the militaristic route.”

      Look, I’m not a huge fan of Abe’s historical revisionism, but let’s not engage in hyperbole. Abe does not want to “return to being militaristic”. He doesn’t want to recreate the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, he doesn’t want to return to colonialism, and he doesn’t want to overturn the international system, from which Japan has benefited greatly in the past 70 years.

      He is a conservative politician in a wealthy country, ala John McCain, who believes that Japan should be freer to use its military in world affairs, just like the US, the UK, or France do. The term of art is to become a “normal” country. Most Americans don’t realize that the Japanese constitution (written by Americans) is quite restrictive in terms of use of the military, particularly regarding allowed weapons systems and missions. There was intense debate during the first Persian Gulf War about whether Japan could legally even provide support units to the international coalition. Americans would never accept these limitations on themselves. Self-righteously calling Abe a militarist is absurd. There *are* crazy far-right militarists in Japan, but thankfully they are a minority and Abe is not one of them.

      • ThrottleJockey

        I half way think we should encourage this too. We can’t be the world’s super cop, and I think it would be good to encourage a strengthening of Japan as a counterweight to both China and North Korea.

    • joe from Lowell

      My understanding of the politics of this is that it’s an attempt to harness the power of that old saying “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Abe wants Japan to return to being militaristic so he wants to erase the lessons of what happened the last time Japan went down the militaristic route.

      I don’t know about this. Abe isn’t exactly breaking new ground here – he’s engaging in the same pattern of denial and forgetfulness as his predecessors, including those who weren’t looking for some sort of militarist revival.

      Not that the United States is any better, what with one of our major parties taking the position “Hey guys, slavery wasn’t that bad. Jim Crow? More like Jim Dandy! If Strom Thurmond had been president we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years!”

      That’s a rather egregious false equivalence. When an American politician says something like that, he gets shredded in the press and is forced to walk it back, and it is only part of one party that engages in that type of speech anyway. Whereas this behavior is near-universal among Japanese political figures.

  • LeeEsq

    Japan never came to terms with its role as an Axis power or Imperial power for a complicated variety of reasons. Most of it is because the geopolitics of the Cold War allowed Japan not to focus in them for decades. Unlike West Germany’s neighbors, Japan’s neighbors were not in a position to make Japan reflect. Certain parts of Japanese political culture worked against any sort of reflection either. The high levels of apoliticalness in Japan do not lead to a dissident movement that could force rememberance from the inside. Finally, the bombings Japan suffered reinforced a we were victims to thought process that goes against reflection.

    • efc

      I’ve wondered why Japan has groups like Uyoku dantai while in Germany similar groups might be illegal. It seems like the cold war anti-socialist policies encouraged by the US play a part, but the US was involved in West Germany too and you don’t see greater germany revanchists driving mini buses around munich blaring pre war german military marches.

      • LeeEsq

        Groups like the Ukyou Datai can not be blamed on the United Ststes. The American occupation tried its best to really reform Japan but many reversals occurred after the occupation ended.

        • Domino

          The US role in crafting the new Japanese constitution resulted in an end of military rule – but Japan under US occupation ended up being in a weird role, because of the conflict in Korea.

          Essentially, the US ended up having a big interest in getting Japan back up on it’s feet quickly, due to the Communist threat from China/North Korea. All the higher-up militarists in Japan had been removed/executed, so MacArthur wasn’t worried about them losing any ally (especially since the odds are it would slip to the political right, not the left, thus not afraid of Communists getting a hold in Japan).

          The sad thing to me is that Japan in the 1920’s was actually looking like Western European/US – they had dramatically expanded how many people could vote, fashion trends weren’t regulated, jazz became popular. And then the 30’s rolled around and the militarists were able to take hold of power.

          • Jackov

            The American military also relied on a comfort women system established by the Japanese during the first year of occupation. The CIA then spent the better part of two decades helping to prop up the LDP. Both practices along with the Cold War likely delayed a full accounting of Japanese atrocities from postwar Japanese leadership. Generations born 20-40 years after the atrocities continuing to support historical amnesia/revisionism is something else however.

          • Jean-Michel

            The occupation also clamped down on the Japanese left (a process that began two years before the Korean War), bolstering a conservative political class that had almost to a man supported the war effort; the “Japanese Adenauer,” Yoshida Shigeru, was a veteran of the war cabinet and shared the common belief of postwar conservatives that Japan’s real error had been picking an unwinnable fight with the Anglo-Americans. In other words the early Japanese postwar establishment was dominated by men who had fairly compelling reasons for not reckoning with Japan’s wartime record. (They did, however, have different opinions on postwar militarism–Yoshida himself prioritized economic developed and kept the Japanese military considerably smaller than both ultranationalists and the Eisenhower administration preferred.) Revisionism in textbooks didn’t become an international issue until 1982 but actually began in 1955, and the government didn’t formally acknowledge the existence of comfort women until the 1990s, after it became a major issue in South Korea. (In Japan itself, the subject figured in novels and memoirs stretching back to the late ’40s, and one victim’s account had been a bestseller in the ’70s.)

      • cpinva

        Germany had/has its own revisionist groups, they just aren’t as obvious because they tend to be illegal. remember, after the surrender was signed and Germany occupied, there were guerilla units (of mostly SS) that continued to fight, until they were finally crushed rather mercilessly, by both the U.S. and the Soviets, with extra-judicial, summary executions being the norm.

        • there were guerilla units (of mostly SS) that continued to fight, until they were finally crushed rather mercilessly

          Are you sure? Hitler and Goebbels cheered themselves up with the prospect of the Werwolf resistance movement turning the tide of battle from behind the Allied lines, but I was under the impression that little existed outside their fantasies.

          The main manifestation of the purported “Werwolf resistance” was to provide the Russian occupiers with an excuse for rounding people up for random liquidation, and the Brits and Americans with an excuse for wiping a few towns off the map.

          • The Dark Avenger

            Well, you were wrong:

            Perry Biddiscombe has offered a somewhat different view. In his books Werwolf!: The History of the National Socialist Guerrilla Movement, 1944–1946 (1998)[8] and The Last Nazis: SS Werwolf Guerrilla Resistance in Europe, 1944–1947 (2000), Biddiscombe asserts that after retreating to the Black Forest and the Harz mountains, the Werwolf continued resisting the occupation until at least 1947, possibly until 1949–50. However, he characterizes German post-surrender resistance as “minor”,[29] and calls the post-war Werwolfs “desperadoes”[30] and “fanatics living in forest huts”.[31] He further cites U.S. Army intelligence reports that characterized Nazi partisans as “nomad bands”[32] and judged them as less serious threats than attacks by foreign slave laborers[33] and considered their sabotage and subversive activities to be insignificant.[34] He also notes that: “The Americans and British concluded, even in the summer of 1945, that, as a nationwide network, the original Werwolf was irrevocably destroyed, and that it no longer posed a threat to the occupation.”[35]

            Biddiscombe also says that Werwolf violence failed to mobilize a spirit of popular national resistance, that the group was poorly led, armed, and organized, and that it was doomed to failure given the war-weariness of the populace and the hesitancy of young Germans to sacrifice themselves on the funeral pyre of the former Nazi regime. He concludes that the only significant achievement of the Werwolfs was to spark distrust of the German populace in the Allies as they occupied Germany, which caused them in some cases to act more repressively than they might have done otherwise, which in turn fostered resentments that helped to enable far right ideas to survive in Germany, at least in pockets, into the post-war era.[8]

            Nevertheless, says Biddiscombe, “”The Werewolves were no bit players”;[36] they caused tens of millions of dollars of property damage at a time when the European economies were in an already desperate state, and they were responsible for the killing of thousands of people.[37]

            • Dave Haasl

              If I remember correctly, the only notable success by the Werewolves was the assassination of the mayor of Aachen in March 1945. Which would put it at weeks before the VE day. So – yeah, not a significant problem for the Occupation.

            • The crucial words there are right at the beginning:

              Perry Biddiscombe has offered a somewhat different view.

              That is, he is an out-there revisionist whose claims have not convinced other hsstorians.

              they were responsible for the killing of thousands of people.

              “Responsible” in the sense that their non-existent threat “provided the Russian occupiers with an excuse for rounding people up for random liquidation”.

    • J. Otto Pohl

      Japan is far from unique. Rather it is Germany that is unusual in being forced at least in the West (BRD) to come to partial terms with its past crimes. Russia, Turkey, and many other states are in pretty serious denial of the unsavory elements of their past as well. So I don’t think there is anything specifically in Japanese culture driving this that is different from Russian or Turkish culture.

      • LeeEsq

        That’s true. In Italy so many people seem to descend from Communist resistance fighters that you wonder why Mussolini came to power in the first place. Japan takes denialism to a higher level though.

        • J. Otto Pohl

          Russia right now is doing a pretty good job of gaining on Japan.

        • LosGatosCA

          The U.S. Deep South is right there with Japan and Russia.

          Germany does seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

          • angrifon

            Japan’s mistake was launching their bid for expansion into previously occupied territory in the 20th Century. Had they begun in the 18th Century, they would have been fine. One of the many lessons of the American example.

            (Yes, yes. I know they would have run afoul of the British and French. But no one would be talking about war crimes. The trick is to kill off the indigenous population before civilization frowns on that sort of thing.)

          • Malaclypse

            The U.S. Deep South is right there with Japan and Russia.

            The North, which also had slavery far too long, and profited from the system even longer, is right there with the South.

            • joe from Lowell

              Really?

              In the northern party of the United States, the “happy slaves” myth, the “It wasn’t about slavery” myth, and the like are “right there with the South?”

              I gotta say, that doesn’t quite sound right to me.

              • BubbaDave

                I see way too many Confederate flags on bumpers in PA and MI to be too sanguine.

                • joe from Lowell

                  I see too many as well, but that doesn’t get us to “right there with the South.”

              • Malaclypse

                We have pretty much completely forgotten our role in the slave system, so that makes our denial pretty strong. Different from the denial in the South, but still there.

                • joe from Lowell

                  It was the claim about equivalency that I rejected to – we’re “right there with” Abe, we’re “right there with” the South.

                  No, we’re not, and I insist on this point, and insist on rejecting the claim that we are, because of the mathematical properties of symmetry.

                  If a=b then b=a.

                  If the relative inattention that New Englanders give to the role of New England shipping fleets in the triangle trade is the equivalent of Abe and the rest of the Japanese political leadership’s denial of the Rape of Nanking and annual pilgrimages to the Shrine, then the Japanese stance towards their nation’s crimes in the 30s and 40s is no more serious, important, or egregious than people in Boston not paying attention to the triangle trade.

                  But, of course, it is much more egregious, and much more important.

                • Malaclypse

                  But it isn’t just our role in the triangle trade. As late as 1810, 25% of all blacks in the North were still enslaved. We don’t teach that, we don’t talk about it. We cover it up and act like it didn’t happen.

                • joe from Lowell

                  As late as 1810, 25% of all blacks in the North were still enslaved. We don’t teach that, we don’t talk about it.

                  Mal, I’m going to invite you to go back over this subthread, all the way back to here.

                  What are you arguing, and why?

                • Malaclypse

                  I’m arguing that the whitewashing of atrocity is hardly limited to Japan, or the South. We all deny the crimes in our past.

      • Matt_L

        The Hungarians are also struggling with their WWII legacy. There was a bout of historical reflection by the Academy of Sciences and other academic historians in the 1990s but that was pretty well quashed by a tidal wave of nationalist revisionism in the 2000s.

        • DocAmazing

          Oh, the Hungarians don’t appear to be troubled at all about their WWII legacy; they appear to have embraced it. In like manner, Ukrainians seem to be stepping up to celebrate the life and achievements of Stepan Bandera.

    • cpinva

      ” Finally, the bombings Japan suffered reinforced a we were victims to thought process that goes against reflection.”

      this is something I have gotten well tired of hearing about. yes, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki were horrible, and I guarantee if either Germany or Japan had developed it first, they would have happily used them on GB, Russia and anyone else they felt they needed to.

      as well, the only reason Truman finally agreed to let the Emperor stay, was because he realized that, in order to get an “Unconditional Surrender” from Japan would have required the almost complete annihilation of the Japanese people, along with hundreds of thousands of allied troops, a price he ultimately was unwilling to exact or pay.

      • LeeEsq

        I’m in the atomic bombings were the best way to get Japan to surrender camp so you have no argument from me there. I just meant that all bombings, atomic or not, made the Japanese feel very sorry for themselves even though they were the aggressors.

        • Snarki, child of Loki

          The japanese people of 1941 have a bit less responsibility for the actions of Tojo, et al, in attacking Pearl Harbor, than the American people have for the invasion of Iraq.

          • angrifon

            And yet, they paid a significantly higher price for the actions of their leaders. The lesson being: If you’re going to launch a war of aggression, make sure you have an inviolable home base to which you can return when things go bad. America! Fuck Yeah!

            • Turangalila

              The insulation of the US public from the rest of the world and their own military causes huge problems, and the invasion of Iraq was a horrible idea, badly executed, for which the Iraqi people are still paying the price…

              But to try and equate it to the Rape of Nanking, the Bataan Death March, and the thousands of other acts of murder and depravity committed by all ranks of the Japanese military of that generation obliterates any point you’re trying to make in its absurdity.

              • Linnaeus

                But to try and equate it to the Rape of Nanking, the Bataan Death March, and the thousands of other acts of murder and depravity committed by all ranks of the Japanese military of that generation obliterates any point you’re trying to make in its absurdity.

                But I don’t think anyone’s equating the US invasion of Iraq with atrocities committed by the Japanese military in World War II. The point, as I interpret it, is that if we are going to advance the argument that the US incendiary bombing campaign plus the use of nuclear weapons against Japan constitutes a justifiable form of collective punishment against the Japanese populace for the actions of their leaders and their military (outside of any purely military or strategic considerations), then one might raise a question about the collective responsibility of the US populace for aggression committed by its leaders, particularly in light of the fact that the US populace is in a stronger position to end or mitigate the policies of their political leadership compared to the Japanese citizenry in the 1930s and 40s. One can do this without downplaying the crimes of the Japanese military in World War II.

                • LeeEsq

                  I don’t view it as a form of justified collective punishment but as basically the only way to bring the Japanese leadership down. Chasing the Japanese out of China, Korea, and the rest of Asia would not have worked. Japanese leaders like the rest of Axis leadership had to suffer a defeat in home territory to capitulate. This unfortunately meant that the civilian population would suffer. Incendiary bombings and the nuclear bombings were the least but still very deadly way to do this.

      • Jackov

        Truman was concerned about US casualties. Debate about Japanese civilian casualties focused on the degree of their resistance to the invasion of Kyushu. Dropping the bomb likely ‘saved’ millions of Japanese civilians but doing so was not even a secondary concern.

        • DocAmazing

          I’ll bet he wasn’t even considering Godzilla.

          • The Dark Avenger

            He triggered something worse than Godzilla.

            • efgoldman

              McDonald’s? (see next thread up)

        • Linnaeus

          Dropping the bomb likely ‘saved’ millions of Japanese civilians but doing so was not even a secondary concern.

          Folks like Henry Stimson, after the war, often made it sound like they were concerned about Japanese civilain casualties, but that doesn’t appear to be the case when you look at what US planners were saying at the time, which of course wasn’t available until some time after the war.

      • William Berry

        “[T]his is something I have gotten well tired of hearing about. yes, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki were horrible, and I guarantee if either Germany or Japan had developed it first, they would have happily used them on GB, Russia and anyone else they felt they needed to.”

        Well, OK: This is something I have gotten well tired of hearing about.

        The point is: Germany and Japan emphatically did not develop and use the bomb.

        The incendiary bombing of Germany and Japan by the allies, and the use of the A-bomb by the U.S., actually happened and it would be absurd to suggest there was no psychological impact on the civilian populations that didn’t still resonate, to some degree, to the present time.

        • William Berry

          And yes, I apologize for the snarkiness of the re-quote, but stand by my substantive point.

        • joe from Lowell

          And by ‘very emphatically did not,’ you mean ‘very emphatically attempted to.’

          You’re trying to turn “We beat them to the punch” into “They weren’t throwing a punch.”

          • William Berry

            No, actually, I meant what I said.

            Your comment is completely irrelevant to the point I was making.

            What is your problem, dude?

            • joe from Lowell

              My “problem” is that, just like last time, I object to the dishonesty of your argument.

              You’re trying to turn “We beat them to the punch” into “They weren’t throwing a punch.”

              Did you see it this time?

              • William Berry

                No, because you are the liar here.

                The fact that Germany and Japan were also trying to develop the bomb is irrelevant.

                We developed the bomb and we used it. The consequences were real. You, and the war-boys who think like you are always trying to pose some counter-factual to what actually occurred. It doesn’t work that way.

                Maybe you could work on the reading comprehension thing.

                ETA: Anyway, fuck off. You aren’t worth the bother.

                • joe from Lowell

                  “Liar.” “What is your problem, dude?”

                  Grow up.

                  And please stop “bothering.” That would be awesome.

                  You, and the war-boys who think like you are always trying to pose some counter-factual to what actually occurred.

                  A. “The war-boys who think like you?” Grow up.

                  B. What ‘counter-factual’ are you talking about? I didn’t offer a counter-factual.

                  Maybe you could work on the reading comprehension thing.

                  No, I’m quite clear on what “very emphatically” means. Maybe you should work on your writing skills.

                • William Berry

                  “The incendiary bombing of Germany and Japan by the allies, and the use of the A-bomb by the U.S., actually happened and it would be absurd to suggest there was no psychological impact on the civilian populations that didn’t still resonate, to some degree, to the present time.”

                  Absolutely nothing you have said is responsive to the point I made, i.e., that we cannot discount that the bombing of Japan, and esp. the use of the A-bomb, had a profound psychological impact on the Japanese.

                  I have no idea what you are going on about with your attempts to re-write what I said.

                  I do know you have a serious problem. You need to go home and think about your life.

                • joe from Lowell

                  You’re right, Bill: I haven’t written anything about your point that the bombings caused consequences. Why, it’s almost as if I objected to something else entirely about your comment.

                  I have no idea what you are going on about with your attempts to re-write what I said.

                  I believe you when you say you have no idea.

                  I do know you have a serious problem. You need to go home and think about your life.

                  OK, Captain Freakout. I think you need to say fuck a few more times.

                • William Berry

                  Well, Joe, you see, you don’t get to re-write what I said to suit your own projected meaning. At least, not as an honest person, you don’t.

                  But, then, that you are dishonest is beyond question at this point.

                  And I’m pretty sure I am not the one who is “freaking out”. Having seen some of your interchanges with others here over the years, I know the freak-out mode, along with a sneering condescension and know-it-all attitude (Dunning-Kruger comes to mind), to be your normal mode of discourse with anyone who might disagree with you in the slightest.

                  But, don’t change on my account.

                  As it is, at least you are good for a laugh.

                • William Berry

                  Also, too, thanks to Linnaeus, below, for some good sense.

                  Best estimates are that the Germans, at the rate they were going with the heavy water process led by Heisenberg, wouldn’t have developed a bomb before 1950.

                  And, by comparison to the Germans, the Japanese program was a joke.

          • Linnaeus

            you mean ‘very emphatically attempted to.’

            Sidenote: I can’t speak to the case of Japan, but in the German case, the evidence we have now indicates that the German nuclear weapon program was fairly modest and exploratory in nature – the Germans didn’t think that nuclear weapons would affect the outcome of the war, didn’t expect to have a weapon completed before the end of the war, and viewed nuclear weapons as something to work on further after the war.

            Sometimes you’ll hear that the Germans weren’t interested in nuclear weapons at all, or that (the Jungk thesis) that German scientists sabotaged or slowed their own efforts. Neither is supported by the historical evidence. But the German program wasn’t close to developing a working atomic bomb and the Germans didn’t devote a lot of resources to doing so.

  • DrDick

    I would argue that this is not so different from many other countries, including the US. We are still hiding from the atrocities we committed in Vietnam, Korea, and WWII (firebombing Dresden and Tokyo, for instance), not to mention the Spanish-American War and the Mexican War and out treatment of the Indians and African Americans.

    • Warren Terra

      Maybe a little different. Sure, we present to our children and to our adults an unduly rosy view of our history, and as noted above our Conservatives want to censor our education and actively hide the ugly things we’ve done – but what Abe and his ilk stands for goes far beyond that, to actively denying the past. American leaders might prefer to avoid discussion of the trail of tears, of lynching, of the millions dead in SE Asia – but they don’t pretend they never happened, nor (when pressed) that they’re shameful (SE Asia possibly excepted, it being too recent and some American conservatives continuing to blame everything there on the commies). The Japanese Right goes that extra step, claiming that in China the were benevolent missionaries of Asian freedom from European imperialism untainted by cruelty and innocent of massacres.

      • DrDick

        I think that you are far too generous here. A large percentage of Americans, including almost everyone on the right, would argue that we have never done anything wrong. They very much want to erase the actual past and replace it in exactly the same way.

        • joe from Lowell

          But unlike in Japan, that indefinably “large percentage of Americans” doesn’t amount to the entirety of the political culture, doesn’t automatically get its way, and doesn’t define the mainstream view of history. I’m not even sure we have a mainstream view of history in this country.

          Compare: The Smithsonian runs an installation that is critical of the use of atomic bombs on Japan. It’s up, people are walking by and seeing it, in a museum sponsored by the federal government. Some political figures from that “large percentage” object loudly. Others object to their objection, and we have a big argument.

          vs.

          Abe visits the Yasakuni Shrine just like all of his predecessors. People from other countries complain.

          • LeeEsq

            Yeah, this. The difference is that nearly no part of the Japanese political establishment supports an accurate teaching of Japanese history. The advocates for historical honesty are few and somewhat powerless. In the United States, there are many more mainstream politicians rather than just a few radical dissidents that favor at least some honesty in teaching American history.

          • Linnaeus

            The Smithsonian runs an installation that is critical of the use of atomic bombs on Japan. It’s up, people are walking by and seeing it, in a museum sponsored by the federal government.

            The Smithsonian exhibit to which you’re referring never went up. It was planned to open in May 1995, but the secretary of the Smithsonian, under pressure from the Air Force Association, veterans’ groups, and members of Congress, cancelled it in January 1995. The scaled-down exhibit that replaced the originally planned one went up in June 1995.

          • Jhoosier

            If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend visiting Yasukuni. They have a war museum there, and getting to see that level of propaganda is really eye-opening. I took my folks there, but I’m not sure my father made the analogy.

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