Whitewashing History in Japan
Right-wing political forces in Japan, encouraged by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, are waging a campaign of intimidation to deny the disgraceful chapter in World War II when the Japanese military forced thousands of women to serve in wartime brothels.
Many mainstream Japanese scholars and most non-Japanese researchers have established as historical fact that the program allowed Japanese soldiers to sexually abuse women across the Asian warfront -- based on widespread testimony from the "comfort women."
Now a political effort to treat these events as wholesale lies concocted by Japan's wartime enemies is gaining traction, with revisionists trying to roll back the government's 1993 apology for the coercion of women into prostitution. The Abe government, intent on stoking nationalistic fervor, was rebuffed earlier this year in its effort to have revisions made to a 1996 United Nations human rights report on the women Japan forced into sex slavery. But, at home, the right wing continues to hammer away at The Asahi Shimbun newspaper, seizing on the paper's retractions of articles published in the 1980s and 1990s that turned on limited aspects of its coverage to deny the larger historical truth of the "comfort women" program.
The Abe government is playing with fire in pandering those demanding a whitewash of wartime history. "They want to bully us into silence," Takashi Uemura, a former Asahi reporter, said in describing how ultranationalists have made violent threats against him and his family.
Mr. Abe, under criticism from China and South Korea and frustration in the United States, said in March that he would uphold the apology. In it, Japan admitted that tens of thousands of women from South Korea and elsewhere were coerced into sexual slavery. This is where the historical truth stands, despite revisionist scheming.