Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Revisionism II

The Vatican

Pope Benedict XVI has had a rough year reconciling the Church’s wartime record with contemporary sensibilities. Efforts to follow traditional Catholic doctrine have run up against larger issues of modern remembrance and reconciliation. Too often the Vatican finds itself in the same equivocal position as Japan. Measured words of contrition become undone by startling deeds of insensitivity and cultural defensiveness.

On Saturday, December 19th, Benedict confirmed the “heroic virtues” of Pope Pius XII—along with those of John Paul II—opening the door to beatification once a miracle is attributed to each.  A second miracle would be required for sainthood. Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, is often accused of not having spoken out vocally enough against the Nazis or intervening to save Jews and others during World War II as well as condoning the use of Nazi-procured slave labor for the Church and assisting Nazis to escape to South America.

The Jewish community and others reacted with such outrage, that the Vatican issued a statement on December 23rd that "It is, then, clear that the recent signing of the decree is in no way to be read as a hostile act towards the Jewish people, and it is to be hoped that it will not be considered as an obstacle on the path of dialogue between Judaism and the Catholic Church.”

In other words, the statement acknowledges the consequences of enshrining a man whose decisions negatively affected millions, although not quite willing to forego the tradition. The Vatican is rightly worried of the reception when the Pope visits the Synagogue in Rome and the State of Israel in the coming months. The Church's efforts to strengthen understanding with the Jewish people have been clouded and it is being made to be accountable for its actions.

This recent action by Pope Benedict XVI  adds to others over the past year that seem disconnected from the goal of reconciliation. In January, Pope Benedict created firestorm by revoking the excommunications of four ultra-conservative schismatic bishops. One, Bishop Williamson of Argentina, was an outspoken anti-Semite and Holocaust denier.  Worse when the Pope demanded that the Bishop recant these views, he equivocated saying he did not have enough information.

As he told Der Speigel "It is not about emotions but about historic evidence," he said. "If I find this evidence, I will correct myself. But that will take time."

The wayward Bishop posted on his blog in February a peculiar rebuke to the Pope.  [The blog, was shut down in July and the below quote had been retrieved in February. Now you can subscribe to an email newsletter of sermons ranting about Pope Benedict's destruction of the Church.]:
Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept, only as is properly respectful, my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems.
For me, all that matters is the Truth Incarnate, and the interests of His one true Church, through which alone we can save our souls and give eternal glory, in our little way, to Almighty God. So I have only one comment, from the prophet Jonas, I, 12; 
"Take me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you." 
Please also accept, and convey to the Holy Father, my sincere personal thanks for the document signed last Wednesday and made public on Saturday. Most humbly I will offer a Mass for both of you.

No Japanese denier could be more eloquent in avoiding responsibility. So sorry to cause trouble, but I have no regrets, says the Bishop. Like all deniers, the objective simply is to sow doubt. And if the Holocaust did not happen or if Imperial Japan did not rampage across Asia, then maybe, just maybe Fascism or Emperor worship was not so bad. These governments of a "greater time" had to be better alternatives to democracy. Or as Pierre Vidal-Naquet wrote in his 1992 book, Assassins of Memory, “One revives the dead in order to better strike the living.”

Exasperated and pressured by Germany and international outcry, the Vatican firmly admonished the Bishop, stating that “in order to be admitted to the Episcopal functions of the Church, [he] must in an absolutely unequivocal and public way distance himself from his positions regarding the Shoah [Holocaust]."

The Pope essentially admitted to a rare misjudgment and set a strict standard for contrition. More important, he set an international standard for an apology from those who deny historical fact. He said it should be "unequivocal" and "public." These words are the very same written in 2007 by Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA) for his resolution (H. Res. 121) outlining an appropriate official Japanese apology to the Comfort Women.

There is a difference between unambiguous and unequivocal. There is not room for doubt in the latter. "Unequivocal" has become the universal value associated with apology. Unfortunately, both the Vatican and Mr. Honda still await their apologies.

Disappeared but Not Forgotten

The Bruces at Australian National University have taken down its blog, Reconciliation between China and Japan and the Cooperative Security Network. This is unfortunate as some of the posts were unique and of historical significance. I was not pleased.

However, the author of those posts has given us permission to repost some of the more important observations and reports. So don't be surprised if over the next month you find some less-than-timely reporting here.

The replacement blog for China and Japan is PeaceBuilder. It has promise, but is currently a lot of whining about how unjust war is.

Christmas Revisionism I

This Christmas week was good for denials. World War II issues of responsibility that most thought were settled reemerged. After of a year of considerable progress for both Japan and the Vatican in acknowledging atrocities allowed by their wartime regimes, this is both surprising and disappointing. Saying sorry is no substitute for a genuine apology of words and deeds.

On December 20th, an Australian search team found the hospital ship, The Centaur, that was sunk during World War II off the coast of Australia in 1943. The Centaur went down with the loss of 268 lives after being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine—despite being painted white with red crosses.

According to Japan’s official 1979 submarine warfare history, it was submarine 1-177, under the command of Lt Commander Nakagawa who had sunk the Centaur. Lt Commander Nakagawa was convicted as a war criminal for firing on survivors of the British Chivalry, which his ship had sunk in the Indian Ocean. He was not charged, however, for the sinking of The Centaur.

Japan’s embassy in Canberra hastily issued a statement to the press (which cannot be found on their website) on December 23rd that said the circumstances in which the Centaur went down were not conclusive. "The Japanese government had conducted its own inquiry into the Centaur," the statement said, without giving any indication when the inquiry took place. “The circumstances were not clear given that it occurred during the Second World War. We will see how the on-going investigation by Australia unfolds." The Embassy continued with a reworking of the traditional and tired Murayama apology, "Japan, reflecting on the past, has since made the greatest efforts for world peace and prosperity as a responsible member of the international community and has also developed a close relationship with Australia.”

Members of the Centaur Memorial Association were disgusted by the Embassy’s response and some demanded an apology. But the Australian government jumped into damage control and a Foreign Ministry spokesman referred to Japan's past apologies for other wartime atrocities and said (also not on their website) that "The Australian government recognises the suffering endured by families of those killed as a result of the sinking of the Australian hospital ship Centaur in 1943." And added that "Australia accepts Japan's repeated apologies -- the 1951 Peace Treaty, which Australia signed, drew a line under Japan's crimes during the World War II for which many Japanese were rightly tried, convicted and sentenced. Japan is now a different country; it contributes greatly to regional prosperity and security."

Maybe after filming the remains of The Centaur and confirmation of what sunk the hospital ship, Japan will send a representative to the annual memorial, as some have suggested. The Hatoyama Administration came to office saying it wanted to face squarely Japan's history. We are waiting.

Later:  Sunk Australia WWII hospital ship Centaur: first images

Next post, The Vatican

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Child Abduction Politics IV

Nine-year old Sean Goldman will return to the United States with his father and Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ). They will be home in time for Christmas. Sean's grandmother, Silvana Bianchi, has decided not to file any further appeals.

The U.S. government at the highest levels and the U.S. media assisted the divorced father, David Goldman, with his quest to have his son returned to him. Presidential talking points included the issue, Congress held hearings, and Senators placed holds on crucial trade legislation.

The grandmother told CNN Wednesday it was "very sad, a country that exchanges children for economic agreements."

According to CNN, while the chief justice was still studying the case, Brazilian Attorney General Luis Inacio Adams said the executive branch of Brazilian government sided with Goldman. The Attorney General reportedly said:
Once we stop cooperating and start breaking our treaties andinternational obligations, Brazil risks the chance of not having its own requests in the matters regarding international judicial help granted, based on the principle of international reciprocity. 
Not releasing the minor into the custody of his father could bring sanctions against Brazil. It could damage Brazil's image before the international community.
Yes, it is a triumph for the rule of law.

Monday, December 21, 2009

New Journal Hopes to Buy a Clue

The National Defense University just launched a new, quarterly foreign policy/defense journal. Called the PRISM, it says it is:
tailored to serve policy-makers, scholars and practitioners working to enhance U.S. Government competency in complex operations by exploring whole-of-community approaches among U.S. Government agencies, academic institutions, international governments and militaries, non-governmental organizations and other participants in the complex operations space. PRISM is chartered by the Center for Complex Operations (CCO) and it welcomes articles on a broad range of complex operations issues, especially those that focus on the nexus of civil-military integration.
Hans Binnendijk and Patrick M. Cronin in the Journal's introductory article, Through the Complex Operations Prism explains the journal's mission:
It has been over 12 years since the Bill Clinton administration released Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 56, “Managing Complex Contingency Operations.” PDD 56 was issued in May 1997 to direct the institutionalization within the executive branch of lessons learned from such complex operations as Panama, Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia. Our recent frustrations in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the deaths of over 5,000 American soldiers and civilians, and multiple trillions of dollars in war-related costs have caused us once again to scrutinize the failures of our approach to complex operations and to reapply ourselves to a better understanding of those operations and the environments they are meant to address.
In the spirit of neo-cons admitting that they have failed, which appears to be the real theme of the journal, the first issue features an interview with former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. It also appears to be the only article that anyone in DC has read.  Tom Ricks gently lists the highlights in his blog.

By "gently,"I mean he simply lists, but does not comment on, some of Armitage's surprising slaps at the Bush Administration including that there did not seem to be any real presidential consultation to invade Iraq. Ricks also does not note that Armitage admitted to failing to understand soon enough that there was a difference between the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Armitage also does not have much use for female leadership and was delighted when folks told him that the "Rice years were terrible." He felt she failed to develop that military espirt de corps that Powell did; and he did not think that Hillary Clinton could either. You know, the girls were not "inculcated" with this.

Maybe someone should tell Armitage that the new president of the National Defense University is Vice Admiral Ann E. Rondeau, USN, who assumed duties as the 13th President of from Lieutenant General Frances C. Wilson, USMC, on July 10, 2009. Probably, those girls know a thing or two about espirt de corps.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Child Abduction Politics III

David Goldman has been invited to have Christmas with his son in Rio de Janerio. Mr. Goldman is in a rancorous custody fight for his son with the husband of his ex-wife who died in childbirth last year. Maybe, an agreement can be reached on the child’s status simply between the families.

By international law, the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abductions, which Brazil is a party to, the son should have been returned to his father. The Brazilian courts, however, have issued contradictory orders and in the end the boy is prevented from returning to the U.S. and his father.

The issue of parental child abduction is even greater in Asia. Almost no country in Asia has signed The Hague Convention (Hong Kong, Macau, Australia and New Zealand have). Japan, Korea, China, Indonesia, and the Philippines are all safe havens for parents who want to disregard court orders and to continue to pain their former spouses. So it was no surprise that it is a father of a child abducted to Japan, Patrick Braden, who is a leader of the left-behind parents. As Mr. Goldman languished in Brazil waiting to see his son, Mr. Braden spoke with compassion and solidarity on his behalf on the TV news last Friday.

Japan holds the single largest number of abducted American children in Asia. Japan is also the only G-7 country that has not signed The Hague nor has an extradition treaty with the U.S. The Government has been"studying" the issue for a number of years and it is one of the top subjects being fought against by the Japanese Embassy's lobbyists.

The past few weeks have been active for those trying to heighten awareness of the parental child abduction issue. On December 1st, Japan’s Foreign Ministry set up a new division to study and handle international child custody issues. On the same day, the Ministry signed a MOU with France establishing a Consultative Committee on Issues Related to Child Custody to exchange information on cases. The press release was careful to note “The purpose of this Committee is not for the actual resolution of disputes between the involved parties.”

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tamogami to New York

As noted last month, prematurely-retired Japan Air Self-Defense Forces Chief of Staff General Toshio Tamogami is coming to New York City in March. Some introduce the General as "disgraced." I doubt, however, if he or his supporters believe him disgraceful. At least, they have no shame.

This week (12/15), Washington's much-read Cable on the politics and personalities of foreign policy picked up on the Tamogami visit: "Why is Mike Huckabee flirting with a Japanese WWII revisionist?".

The advertisements for the General's visit featured former governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee as the event's moderator. The reporter contacted both the Governor's office as well as event organizers to find out more.

Not unexpectedly, the organizers had not been quite forthright in explaining the event to Governor Huckbee and the Governor's staff did little to understand invitation. After all, Huckabee, a future presidential candidate, might benefit from speaking alongside an anti-Chinese Communist general from an ally's air force.

Here it should be noted that Japan's Self-Defense Forces do not seem to have any rules as to when a retired or fired military official can wear his uniform. Tamogami is seen throughout his website and the event's website wearing his Air Self-Defense Forces full dress uniform.

The result of The Cable's reporting has been Huckabee bowing out of the Tamogami engagement and the event organizers taking down their English-language website. The Japanese site is better anyway. I guess they do not know that non-Japanese can read Japanese, including the reporter who called. There is also translation software...

The Tamogami event is still scheduled. There will be a dinner cruise and a talk at New York's University Club. It might now take a little longer for the University Club to realize that it is hosting a speaker who would be the Japanese equivalent of Holocaust deniers David Irving or Cardinal Williamson.

Later: The above photo is of Chief of Staff of the Air Self-Defense Force Toshio Tamogami receiving the Legion of Merit Degree Commander Medal from Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force Norton A. Schwartz at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Virginia on August 19, 2008. This date is only a few months before General Tamogami received his infamous prize for his essay on the truth of Japanese history.

White Out

Forget Al Qaeda, climate change, H1N1, the Chinese, Joe Lieberman, what really scares Washington? A SNOW STORM! And we got a real one coming down.

Washington is covered with snow and 18 inches are expected by Saturday afternoon.


Later: 12/20/09 The District got 16 inches and where my daughter is stranded at a sleepover party got 21 inches. The City is shut down. It is indeed very beautiful outside my window. For pictures see HERE.

Even Later: The Federal Government in Washington, DC will be closed on Monday, December 21st due to the snow storm.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Hanukkah

Did you know that Judaism is not one of the five recognized religions in the People's Republic of China?

Marc Chagal (French, b. Belorussia, 1887-1985)
Aaron and the Lamp, The Story of the Exodus suite,  

1966 Lithograph on paper
19 7/8 x 14 1/2 in. (50.5 x 36.8 cm)
The Jewish Museum, New York
Gift of Herman and Sietske Turndorf, 1982-231.15
© 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Monday, December 7, 2009

Zeros over the Bow

President Obama’s Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day proclamation is to be commended. It recognizes the elephant in the room of U.S.-Japan relations. It reminds everyone that there is a history to the relationship. The many recent missteps in the “alliance” can be attributed to the failure to address the history issues between the two countries.

Obama’s apparent habit of elaborate greetings, which don’t necessarily follow traditional egalitarian U.S. protocols, is likely to have been behind the President’s bow to the Japanese Emperor. I suspect the exaggerated, awkward ‘bow’ was merely an instinctive act of what Obama felt are good manners and culturally sensitive.

Unfortunately, it was an inadvertent slight to the new liberal Hatoyama government that has little use for the Imperial Household or the rightists that support it. The bow appeared to insiders as a sly nod of support to those who promote the U.S.-Japan Alliance. It was not lost on the DPJ that these out-of-power LDP conservatives also want a return of Imperial power.

But whatever Obama’s intent, its potential damage may have been lessened by today’s Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day proclamation. The President clearly points out that “the surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese on Pearl Harbor was an attempt to break the American will and destroy our Pacific Fleet.” He acknowledges that Imperial Japan was the aggressor in the war.

The Bush Administration and President-elect Obama last year failed to mention even once Japan in their statements on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. For Bush it was the “enemy” and for Obama it was the “danger.”

There is no longer any need to do this. If Obama had again ignored the fact that it was Imperial Japan that bombed Pearl Harbor, he would have further insulted both the new government in Japan and the Americans that died on that day and after.

Tacitly exonerating Japan from starting the Pacific War and elevating the Emperor panders to the conservative LDP and the rightists that believe what Imperial Japan did was right and support an “alliance” merely to further their own nationalist goals. The U.S. no longer needs to appease these people. They are no longer in a position to help with American security objective in Japan or Asia.

Even those conservatives in the Hatoyama Administration such as Maehara (a Nippon Kaigi member) and Nagashima (who denies Nanking) are being marginalized. Maehara is relegated to promoting airports and selling trains, while Nagashima gets reprimanded regularly by the Chief Cabinet Secretary. Supporting these conservatives in and especially out of government merely antagonizes the DPJ and confirms their suspicions about American Japan handlers as wanting to undermine the new government.

Part of being a modern equal to the U.S. is not being treated as a quaint, fragile Oriental. Bowing to the Emperor poked at the DPJ by catering to the antiquated sensibilities of the LDP and Japan’s conservatives. The DPJ is in power, not the LDP. It seems a bit pernicious to encourage Japan’s Right this way. Note, despite the American neocon outcry against the “bow”, none of the neocon Japan experts objected or commented. Their Japanese friends were delighted.

The Futenma issue festers because neither Tokyo nor Washington has successfully confronted the bitter war history of Okinawa. The prolonged American occupation of Okinawa (until 1972) and unwillingness of the Japanese government to do no more than bribe Okinawan leaders has allowed a deep hostility toward both powers on the Island.

It was only two years ago that the LDP government ordered textbook revisions to indicate that some Okinawans committed suicide or were forced to commit mass suicide, but not 'by whom.' And it was the LDP government that has failed for 14 years to relocate Futenma. For its part, Washington naively thinks Okinawans still can be persuaded by Tokyo.

The Emperor by putting out his hand tried to give Obama the hint as to what was the right thing to do. The Emperor who has been trying to humanize and modernize the Imperial Institution must have been puzzled by the President's inelegant bow. His Highness knows that the voters now count in Japan.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Who to Believe

There is a persistent belief in Washington that the old, familiar ties with Japan's security policy community still matter. With few ties within the DPJ, the Alliance Managers trust that their conservative DPJ friends will overcome the party's resistance to continuing the US-Japan security relationship as is. Unfortunately, it is unclear how powerful these allies in the DPJ are.

Former security guru, Seiji Maehara is now Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister. He is tasked with being the "top salesperson" for international purchases of the Shinkansen technology. The other well-known security expert, Akihisa Nagashima, is Parliamentary Secretary to the Defense Ministry. Reports circulating in Washington that the Defense and Foreign ministers fought over retaining him were untrue. Neither wanted him on their team.

It is not that there is much teamwork in the DPJ. Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada has indicated that the Futenma issue must be solved by the end of this year, while Hatoyama retorted that they are not at the stage of being able to come up with a decision by the year-end.

On TV program Monday morning (11/30/09) with the LDP's Shigeru Ishiba, Akihisa Nagashima indicated that members of the government
mostly share a view that moving the facility outside Okinawa or Japan is realistically difficult to achieve.

''It is easy to say, 'Move it outside the prefecture or outside the country,' but realistically difficult -- that is a view mostly shared by the government,'' Nagashima reportedly said.

At a press conference later that day, however, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said he does not think that such a view is necessarily shared within the government.