Friday, May 2, 2014

Obama on Wrong Side of History and Gary Locke's Redemption

An edited and revised version was published in New America Media.

On his recent tour of Asia, President Obama's first stop was Japan where he blundered and tarnished the prestige of the Presidency. At about the same time, as if to atone for his former boss's misstep, Gary Locke, the first Chinese American to be a state governor, a cabinet secretary and as ambassador to China, paid a personal visit to the Nanjing Massacre Museum

In his typically understated style, Locke did not announce his intention to visit in advance and thus went to the museum without fanfare. When the media caught up to him, he made it clear that his was a personal visit and had no bearing on the official position of the U.S. government.

This was his first visit to the museum. Keeping his visit a routine matter reflected a sincere interest to see first hand various acts of Japan's WWII atrocities, free of grandstanding and limelight that politicians crave. He effectively reminded the government of Japan that all Chinese and most of Asians are still waiting for Japan to finally admit their heinous acts of inhumanity and stop pretending to be the victims rather than perpetrators of the War.

In contrast, Obama's visit in Tokyo was bathed in bright lights and he said just about everything Japan's prime minister Abe wanted to hear, including the willingness of the U.S. to help Japan in the event of military conflict over the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands.

Until Obama's statement, the U.S. official position was that when the administrative control of the islands was turned over to Japan in 1972, the U.S. government took no position on the rightful ownership of those islands.

China had been demanding that Japan abide by terms of unconditional surrender as described in the Potsdam Declaration. The terms specified that Japan renounced all claims to offshore islands other than the four main islands of Japan.

Not only did Obama showed ignorance of history but he got nothing in return. Abe was all smiles but gave no concessions that Obama sought. Obama gave up the good vibes from the Sunnyland summit with China's Xi Jinping for no good reason.

In August 2001, not long after he was elected to Congress, Mike Honda visited China and he made sure the Nanjing Massacre Museum was on his itinerary. Despite his being ethnic Japanese, Honda understood the right and wrong of history. He has been among the most vociferous members of Congress in demanding redress from Japan for their crimes against humanity.

Later Honda even guided then freshman Congresswoman Judy Chu to the Nanjing Museum so that she can become acquainted with this dark chapter of WWII history. Chu born in America was not familiar with the war atrocities committed by Japan's Imperial troops.

At the massacre museum in Nanjing, leis of paper folded cranes made by school children from Japan can be seen as offerings of regret and apology. Schools from Japan organized periodic tours to Nanjing so that their students do not forget.

The right wing government does not represent the majority of Japanese people. Even if Americans do not pay attention to history, the people of Asia will not let Abe and his ilk forget.

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