Shinzo Abe Is Not Alone


By Edmond Y. Azadian

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was elected last year with a strong mandate, has assumed the responsibility of reforming his country’s sagging economy and in the process he has determined to harken back to its imperialist history much to the chagrin of Japan’s World War II victims, namely China and Korea.

This aggressive posture, with its militaristic overtones, worries Washington’s policy planners, eager to maintain stability in the region and to contain North Korea’s unpredictable behavior.

Abe’s revisionist policy has relevance and also a bearing on other historic relations, especially German-Jewish and Turkish-Armenian relations. Should the world remain silent, other revisionist politicians may emulate Abe by victimizing once more history’s victims.

President Eisenhower, before leaving office, had warned the US public against the domination of the military-industrial complex. It is well known that military buildup is a lucrative business that generates wealth for a certain segment of society. Therefore, the Japanese prime minister is taking up the recovery of his country’s economy where Eisenhower had left off. In order to achieve this goal, he has to create the right atmosphere and excuses to embark upon his militaristic path. Tensions are already flaring between Tokyo and Beijing over some islands in the East China Sea, claimed by both parties.

To exacerbate the situation, Mr. Abe has taken some calculated and provocative steps. First, he has plans to revise Japan’s constitution drafted under US occupation after Japan’s unconditional surrender at the end of World War II. General McArthur saw to it that Japan can never rearm itself to wage a war of aggression. That is why Article 9 of its constitution renounces warfare and the threat or use of force and that unlike other countries, it has a pacifist aim written into the constitution. The prime minister is planning to “reinterpret” that article to pave the way for Japan’s militarization, although the US has 16 military bases in that country and has extended its nuclear umbrella over it.

Since militarization needs an excuse, Abe has undertaken the most audacious initiative to provoke China and South Korea, by visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, adjacent to the revisionist war museum.

Japan’s barbaric actions during WWII in China and Korea are well documented, especially its enslavement of Korean women as “comfort women” in its military brothels and brutal assaults in China, the most famous case known as the Rape of Nanking, where systematic rape and murder was the order of the day in that Chinese city by the Japanese Imperial Army.

Abe’s predecessors have made halfhearted apologies for these crimes, which have satisfied neither China nor South Korea.

After the war, the Tokyo Tribunal, similar to the Nuremberg Trials, took place between May 1946 and November 1948 and condemned 28 political and military leaders as Class A war criminals. Of those, 14 were executed and buried at Yasukuni Shrine, where Mr. Abe visited to honor them. He defiantly justified his actions, maintaining that “the 14 Class A war criminals honored at Yasukuni Shrine are not war criminals under Japanese law, but the country had to accept the outcome of the Tokyo Tribunal to become an independent nation.”

The Chinese and South Korean governments are outraged and they have expressed their indignation in no uncertain terms. The US government has been trying to warn Mr. Abe against a repeat performance. Western media also pointed to it as a self-inflicted act as the Economist of London wrote, “Morally, it is as if Angela Merkel were to pay her respects at a monument that, among other things, honors the Third Reich. Politically, it is self-defeating….China and South Korea, that suffered under Japanese imperialism, are understandably horrified. Step-by-step, they fear, Japan is shedding the restraints that bound it after the war without having ever faced up to its crimes.”

Mr. Abe can defy his country’s old victims and challenge world public opinion safely sheltered under the umbrella of the world’s most powerful nation: the US.

Another nation — under the farcical title of trusted ally — is Turkey, which continues its denialist policy, unrepentant. Talaat Pasha, the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire and the architect of the Armenian Genocide, confided to the Turkish feminist Halide Edip: “I have the conviction that as long as a nation does its best for its own interests, and succeeds, the world admires it and thinks it moral. I am ready to die for what I have done and I know I shall die for it.”

What he had done was boastfully described in Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story. Talaat is quoted as saying, “I have done more toward solving the Armenian problem in three months than Abdul Hamid II accomplished in 30 years.”

The precursor of Nuremberg Trials, the Istanbul Trials of 1919, under Ottoman Sultan Mahmoud VI, accused 130 suspects of committing war crimes and the “massacre and destruction of Armenians.” On July 5, 19191, the court released its verdict: Talaat, Enver, Jemal and Dr. Nazim were condemned to death in abstentia. The criminals had fled the country and the administration of justice was left to a group of young avengers.

Talaat had found refuge in Germany and he was planning to return to Ankara, where, according to his confession to a British intelligence officer, Aubrey Herbert, “the Turkish national movement was forming.” The reference  is to Mustafa Kemal’s Milli movement, which eventually built the present-day Turkish Republic out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.

Talaat’s life was cut short when he was assassinated by Soghomon Tehlirian in Berlin in 1921. He had pinned his hopes on Kemal’s nationalist movement, which turned out to be the extension of the criminal Ittihadist policy. Many rank-and-file members of that government who had Armenian blood on their hands joined the Kemalist government, as it has been fully documented by Turkish historian Taner Akçam.

The Republic of Turkey was cooperating with Hitler during World War II by providing raw materials to the German war machine. That is how it was able to repatriate Talaat’s remains from Berlin to Istanbul in 1943. The remains were reburied in the Sisli district of Istanbul. A monument was also erected in his memory on Hurriet Tepe (Freedom Hill) for the Turkish people to honor that war criminal. It is believed that as of 2012, Mehmet Talaat Pasha has had many prominent streets named after him in the modern state of Turkey.

Far from apologizing for the crime of genocide, Turkish leaders have continued to threaten Armenia and the Armenians. Still fresh in our memories is the threat by then Turkish President Turgut Ozal, at the outset of Armenia’s independence, who asked rhetorically whether 1915 had not taught a lesson to Armenians and if they are itching for Turkey to drop a few bombs over Yerevan.

As we can see, Shinzo Abe is not alone. He has also cohorts in Turkey.

Yet many politicians play politics with our own Genocide monument and the measure of their friendship with Armenia is revealed by their treatment of Tsitsernakabert in Yerevan. Pope John Paul II politicized his trip to Armenia by avoiding the use of the “g” word. Hillary Clinton made a mockery of her official trip to Armenia, when she announced that her visit to the Genocide museum was a private one and that she had left her political mantle of secretary of state at the US embassy, where she was staying. In her calculation, she signaled to Turkey that the US government’s representative was not honoring the Armenian martyrs. On the other hand, Armenians felt very honored that she was at the monument, whether in a private or official capacity.

Even the heads of our friendly countries, fearful of antagonizing Turkey, have shunned the monument. Iran’s President Ahmadinejad cut short his visit to Armenia to skip his planned visit to the monument, under the pretext of tending to an urgent matter in his country. President Bashar Al-Assad, with the same precautions, did not include a visit to the monument when he came to Armenia.

The majority of the Armenians in the Middle East sympathize with the Palestinian cause and they are thrilled when the head of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas visits the manger in Bethlehem on Armenian Christmas. But when he visited Baku the last time, he shamelessly announced that as Palestinians, whose land is occupied, “we understand Azerbaijan’s predicament” as some of its territory “remains under occupation.”

Major and minor powers play politics with symbols. If we expect support from the world to expose our case and to oblige them to respect our martyrs, we need to deplore the abominable sacrilege of politicians like Shinzo Abe who want to rewrite history and to absolve the sins of history’s murderers.