Prime Minister of Japan Tomichi Murayama last week did what no other Japanese leader ever ventured to do. He extended his "heart-felt apathy" for atrocities committed by his country in World War II. He expressed his feelings of profound mourning for all victims, both at home and abroad.
Murayama thus took what Western political analysts described as a "pragmatic approach." However, in a nationwide survey, a poll revealed that not all Japanese felt they had to apologize alone.
In Britain, the media carried stories of 'horror' committed by the Japanese. Newspaper reports focused on the "Death Railway" which Japan saw as a vital link to Burma.
Over a hundred and twenty thousand people perished including 16,000 Allied POWs - mostly British, Dutch and Australians. This was in addition to the thousands of soldiers from the British Indian Army.
It seems the apology by the Japanese Prime Minster is not enough. Murayama's expression of humility and remorse should lead to other acts compensation. However, the Japanese are not willing to pay. I do agree with them. It is enough they have said sorry - at least their prime minister has. Some members of the Diet - the Japanese Parliament - criticized Murayama: "If he and other politicians want to apologize, let them slit their bellies and apologize."
What do the British want more from the Japanese? Do they want them to grovel or bow? What will they have to do to atone for their "mistakes?" Feelings against the Japanese have run high in the past few days in Britain and it would be better if Japanese tourists stay away from Britain this hot and mean summer. What really mind boggling is the facade of political correctness and standing on the moral high ground by some Western leaders - including Mr. Major, President Clinton, New Zealand Premier Jim Bolger and Australia's Paul Keating who all indicated they were content with the apology.
I and many others believe that the whole Japan "apology" debate is hypocritical. Can it rally be true that Japan's war record was any worse than anyone else's especially those who expressed "content with the apology".
Clinton should think of apologizing to the Native Red Indians for the inhuman cruelty inflicted on them by early American settlers. Bolger should go and kneel before the Maoris. Keating should do the same to the aborigines.
As for Mr. Major he'll have to, one day, apologize to the Bosnians for his anti-Bosnian stand which resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent Muslim men, women and children. As a Balkan appeaser deliberately overlooking the atrocities of the Serbs, he encouraged war criminal such as Karadzic and Mladic to inflict misery much more than was inflicted on his countrymen by the Japanese.
Japan treated white soldiers and colonialists as the British Empire always treated the whole of Asia - as coolies. It is unfortunate that while memorial services were being held there was not one for the natives of the British Indian army who too paid the ultimate sacrifice - thousands of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs had no one to eulogize them.
War is a dirty game and it is inevitable that excesses are committed by all sides. It is unfortunate that those who are defeated are forced to atone. while at the same time the victors themselves unleashed terror and destruction unseen in history. Clinton therefore should be apologized to the Japanese over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And since we are talking about the past, the British should lay a bouquet of flowers on the graves of the victims of the Dresden bombing.
The Western media campaign against Japanese was tinged with hatred and racism. It was an obsessive pursuit of some sad event that should be a closed chapter in the history of our existing troubled world fraught with dangers that require cooler heads. If another Hiroshima is to be avoided let bygones be bygones. Let us read carefully the clauses of the Treaty of Versailles and study how they sowed the seeds of the World War II.
We are now moving on to a new millennium. We are facing challenges that all of us have to confront. It is no use to say that the world has become a global village.
Yet at the same time rare and rant about a track war.
It is not for us to correct the attitudes of others about particular periods of their own history without doing some soul-searching ourselves.
Let us work for a kinder future.