Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The History Card

To Order

It did not matter much which DPJ candidate was elected party president. And it is unlikely that Ozawa’s challenge was serious. It may have been more a tactic than strategy. The result of the DPJ presidential election is that Japanese voters now know exactly what the DPJ is about, in all its permutations.

Another result was that it snuffed out the opposition parties. During the last few weeks there has hardly been news out of any of the opposing parties. The LDP remains lacking ideas and is essentially moribund. There is no going back. The election was less about choice than about solidifying DPJ governance. The DPJ wins the election, no one else.

If there were any doubts about this, they were dispelled by Monday, September 12th's apology by Foreign Minister Okada to the American former POWs of Japan. This public acknowledgement of responsibility, impossible under the LDP, definitively put distance between the DPJ and Japan’s conservative former leaders. The historic apology also helps further identify and isolate reactionary forces both in and out of the DPJ. 

Apologizing to the American POWs was one of Okada's last official acts as Foreign Minister. He did what his successor, Seiji Maehara who is a member of the ultra-right Nippon Kaigi, would never do. But now, Maehara cannot ignore or retreat from this new policy.

What some American policymakers feared would destabilize the DPJ government—bringing up the history issues and unleashing conservative outrage—in the end strengthens it. The DPJ is moving forward, not pushing the unpleasant under the rug.

The American POWs met with Okada on the first day of their trip organized by the Foreign Ministry to promote friendship between American POWs and Japan. Japan has long had these programs for all Allied POWs, with the exception of Americans. This 8-day program was the first. The six POWs are in their 90s.

The group includes survivors from the Army, Army Air Corps, and the Marines who were on Bataan and Corregidor. They survived the death camps on the Philippines, the Bataan Death March, Hellships, and forced labor in brutal conditions for private Japanese companies in China and Japan. The men were forced to work for no pay at facilities owned by Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Nittetsu, Nippon Steel, and Showa Denko.

The Foreign Ministry’s warm reception of the POWs and the deep bow by the Foreign Minister who expressed “his heartfelt apologies” for their “inhumane treatment” was a dramatic break from the past. No Foreign Minister has ever apologized to any POW of Japan. And never had television crews captured such a dramatic Japanese act of official contrition.

There is no doubt who is in charge of Japan. It is the DPJ. And don’t you forget it.

HERE is POW delegation leader Lester Tenny’s response to the Japanese Foreign Minister Okada's government apology.

9/15 - Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy hosts the opening of the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Corridor on at the Pentagon, third floor, A ring, between the 6th and 7th corridors. 

Mindy Kotler
Director, APP

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