It was only weeks ago that Democrats were engaged the dismantling of America’s historically strong bilateral relationship with the state of Israel. Apparently, the damage wrought to that longstanding alliance by Democratic boycotts, blackouts, and antagonistic rhetoric didn’t do quite enough damage America’s standing in the world. Today, members of the Democratic Party used the occasion of another historic address by an allied head of government to sever close ties.
On Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addressed a joint session of Congress – the first such address to the American legislature by a Japanese leader in history – where he elegantly and unequivocally apologized to the nation for American deaths in World War II. One apology wasn’t enough for Congressional Democrats. It did not take long for Democratic lawmakers to condemn Abe for failing also to apologize for the Japanese practice of using “comfort women” as sex slaves during the war.
“Armed conflicts have always made women suffer the most. In our age, we must realize the kind of world where finally women are free from human rights abuses,” Abe said in a veiled reference to the Empire’s shameful practice. “Post-war, we started out on our path bearing in mind feelings of deep remorse over the war. Our actions brought suffering to the peoples in Asian countries.”
He did not, however, address the issue of “comfort women” directly or apologize for it.
“It is shocking and shameful that Prime Minister Abe continues to evade his government’s responsibility for the systematic atrocity that was perpetrated by the Japanese Imperial Army against the so-called ‘comfort women’ during World War II,” Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), a Japanese-American, said afterward.
“Today’s refusal to squarely face history is an insult to the spirit of the 200,000 girls and women from the Asia-Pacific who suffered during World War II,” he added. “This is unacceptable.”
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), the head of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, echoed the disappointment, accusing Abe of ignoring “Japan’s responsibility for this particularly troubling and painful chapter.”
Would it have been a welcome development if Abe had offered a formal apology for that shameful practice? Of course, it would have been. And Japan might one day fully acknowledge the sins of the Empire, but that won’t happen in the Capitol Building for the elusive satisfaction of American Democrats.
Surely, given their self-righteousness, these Democrats were also vocally critical of Barack Obama’s decision to back off a longstanding promise to acknowledge Turkey’s role in the slaughter of Armenians in 1915? In 2004, Rep. Honda spoke at length on the floor of the House about America’s commitment to “recognizing past crimes against humanity,” including those of U.S. allies. It was a conviction Barack Obama shared until he realized there would be irrevocable geopolitical consequences if he were to observe that principle. Moreover, such a comment from a U.S. president would inevitably have a deleterious effect on America’s influence in a dangerous part of the world.
Rep. Chu, a co-sponsor of a 2013 resolution to recognize the Armenian genocide, recently told her California constituents that she would keep fighting to see that 100-year-old crime recognized by the American government. “We will not give up our effort in Washington D.C. to make sure that finally those that died will not have done so in vain, and that this genocide will be remembered,” the California Democrat said. She, too, has not expressed the same frustration with Obama that she reserved for Abe.
The treatment of the Asian women who were forcibly enslaved by Japanese forces in World War II is among the most easily condemnable practices of that horrible war. It’s equally easy to grandstand on the matter. And while censuring the Japanese prime minister might yield some favorable headlines in the United States, it is less clear this pursuit of personal catharsis will benefit the country. Indeed, it might only complicate America’s bilateral relations with a critical ally. But at least a few Democrats got something off their chests.