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News & Analysis > All
News & analysis from Proletarian Internationalist Notes—news, reviews and analysis from a global perspective
Apology not accepted: U.$. out of Asia
May 28, 2016
Obama laid a wreath at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park this week. Obama’s visit came about two months before the 71st anniversary of the only nuclear weapon detonations in war in humyn history.(1) John Kerry visited the same memorial in April, a few weeks after global media coverage of another arrest of a U.$. sailor for sexually assaulting a Japanese in Okinawa.(2)
There were protests in Japan after the Camp Schwab sailor’s arrest. On the same day of Obama’s visit, the sailor pled guilty to rape.(3) In addition, a Kadena Air Base u.$. contractor and former marine was arrested a little bit more than a week ago for raping and killing a Japanese in Okinawa. Protests followed. The contractor reportedly admitted to dumping the body in the trees.(4) In 2014, the Okinawa Prefecture elected a governor opposed to the presence of tens of thousands of u.$. troops and dozens of u.$. installations in Okinawa. Governor Takeshi Onaga has taken action against u.$. base construction in Okinawa.(5) Okinawa has an extremely high number of u.$. troops and installations relative to its size and population. The u.$. presence in Japan has given rise to disagreements of varying nature.
In March, Kerry talked about maintaining the relationship between the united $tates and Japan in the context of war and meddling in the Third World.(6) “And I thank Japan for being a very strong ally and an important international, global player in the effort to bring about peace. Japan’s role has been significant on Ebola, Afghanistan, Syria, human rights, and we’re very appreciative and we will continue to work together as friends.” Obama similarly said on Friday, “The United States and Japan forged not only an alliance, but a friendship that has won far more for our people than we could ever claim through war.” The backdrop to this is one of deepening military ties between the united $tates and Japan. In the same speech, in which Obama acknowledged the u.$. nuclear stockpile, Obama talked about a “base instinct for domination or conquest that had caused conflicts among the simplest tribes,” suggested “man’s capacity to do evil” was eternal, suggested the united $tates’ whole arsenal was “means to defend ourselves,” and spoke of securing “deadly materials from fanatics.”(7) Obama spoke of the technology used by people without First World resources as a threat. “For we see around the world today how even the crudest rifles and barrel bombs can serve up violence on a terrible scale.”
Obama didn’t say the word “apologize” or “sorry.” Obama nonetheless managed to give some observers the impression of an apology and boost Amerika’s global image while reinforcing the idea no apology was necessary and playing Asian countries off against each other. In eir hypocritical and subtly cynical speech, Obama even warmongered with words like “no religion has been spared from believers who have claimed their faith as a license to kill.” Obviously it isn’t Shinto or Christian countries that u.$. imperialism targets today. It is Muslim countries.
The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unnecessary from the point of view of ending the war alone. The bombings were part of an inter-imperialist economic conflict with Japan that existed before the Pearl Harbor attack. The destruction of the two cities, and the subsequent occupation of Japan largely excluding the Soviet Union, suited u.$. imperialist interests. Amerika can’t apologize for the bombings without acting like the results have nothing to do with its current position and strategy in the Asia-Pacific. The bombings are indeed regrettable. Even many of those who view the bombings as necessary but tragic or horrific regard Obama’s memorial visit positively. However, there is no reason for the united $tates to have troops and bases in Japan.
That is something Chinese, Koreans, many Japanese, and some Amerikans worried about their government deficit, can agree on: closing the u.$. bases in Japan. Obama’s headline-grabbing gesture in Hiroshima took attention away from anti-base protests. There were headlines about Shinzo Abe “protesting” the recent murder and Obama promising cooperation with the investigation, and then came the visit to the memorial park with the Genbaku Dome as the backdrop for a speech supporting a World War III imperialist alliance against the Third World. Like the soundproofing on Okinawa Island, hundreds of miles away from the largest Japanese cities, Abe and Obama’s little act just made the continued existence of u.$. bases in Japan easier to stomach.
Amerikans who are against any future visit to Japan which might be interpreted as an apology should understand the interests involved. There would be less need for an apology if u.$. bases were closed. At the same time, having u.$. bases in Japan today without an apology is potentially humiliation of Japanese people leading to resentment.
If there is no apology even for the Nagasaki bombing, though, it’s harder to complain about what happened to the Pentagon in 2001. Nagasaki was a civilian target only. The fact that Japan was defeated doesn’t make the bombing less of an act of terror. Ordinary definitions of terror and terrorism have nothing to do with success in trying to reach a goal.
Before the atomic bombings, many Amerikans regarded Japanese in general as enemies regardless of the Japanese working class. Obama mentioned a dozen Amerikan prisoners who died because of the bombings. The Amerikans who died are regarded as exceptionally patriotic people while the dead Japanese infants are just collateral damage at best.
Everyone regrets the deaths of innocents. Civilian casualties are always unavoidable with large-scale invasions, something Amerikans should know before they decide to invade countries. Perhaps the meaning of Obama’s non-apology is that the world can do whatever it takes to end u.$. aggression as long as u.$. aggression is ended. The united $nakes has no proletariat, no revolutionary working class, much less some revolutionary middle class that somehow exists in the united $tates without a proletariat. The various exploiter classes that Amerikans belong to, fight to increase their privilege. None of them support real revolution.
Many Chinese and Koreans felt that Obama’s visit made Japan look like a victim rather than an aggressor in World War II. The impact of this would be slightly different if they weren’t protests against u.$. bases in Japan today, including a planned massive rally,(8) that should have more media coverage than they are getting. Japan and the united $tates are both aggressors because of what they are doing today, including Japan’s involvement in the so-called War on Terror. There is a significant militarism problem in Japan today – Abe emself is representative of this – and many Japanese have difficulty acknowledging Japan’s crimes in World War II, but that doesn’t make u.$. bases in Asia more tolerable. With Abe defending the bases, the u.$. military presence in Japan is in fact increasingly a sign and symbol not of Japanese receivership or u.$. interests solely, but of a joint militarism of Japan and the united $tates, which – as imperialist countries – have gone from being bitter rivals to being allies.
The pro-Amerikan people in southern Korea, and Amerikans with ties to southern Korea, disagreeing with Obama’s Hiroshima visit should understand the need for Amerikans to recognize and take responsibility for their own aggression, rather than posture as a global moral arbiter. Amerikans have a long way to go compared with the Japanese. The implicit acceptance of Obama’s claim to the moral high ground in connection to conflicts in Asia potentially distracts from contemporary realities of aggression, militarism and imperialism involving both the united $tates and Japan.
The dangers of war exist as long as imperialism exists. War isn’t an eternal feature of the species. Obama used the idea of eternal war to justify Amerika’s so-called defense, but u.$. hegemony stands in the way of advancing the struggle against imperialism everywhere. It will take an invasion of Amerika to end u.$. aggression. It will take an occupation of Amerika before Amerikans start taking responsibility for u.$. aggression in earnest, not just some events decades ago. The wounded beast must not be allowed to crawl back to recuperate physically and mentally/morally. It must be finished off in its own lair. AmeriKKKans, and the false so-called leftists and so-called progressives among them justifying imperialist power, war and exploitation, will be utterly defeated.
The Dollar Empire is the greatest international exploiter. It relies on its vast arsenal to make and carry out threats because it is divorced from the vast majority of the world’s people. It intimidates people with its arsenal, including its nuclear stockpile, and then postures as a peacemaker. It kills civilians with bombs and missiles from afar for economic reasons and then responds hysterically to the pushback before saying yet another deceptive prayer for peace, sure of the reliability of its own moral compass, ruthlessness, and ability to adapt and learn from memory. It brandishes its nuclear weapons as the world’s police supposedly in the interest of peace and stability. But it can’t use nuclear weapons to stop resistance by the world’s people to repression and oppression, ultimately. There is some recognition of this in discussions of reducing the u.$. stockpile, but the Amerikans persist in warmongering, modernizing weapons, and using conventional weapons to attack and threaten countries around the globe. It must be stopped. The united $tates must get out of Asia. Its leaders’ grandstanding won’t fool the world for long. ◊
1. “Obama mourns dead in Hiroshima, calls for world without nuclear arms,” 2016 May 27. http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/obama-mourns-dead-in-hiroshima–calls-for-world-without-nuclear-arms/42182974
2. “US sailor in Okinawa arrested over alleged rape,” 2016 March 14. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-35800435
3. “Sailor accused of Okinawa rape pleads guilty,” 2016 May 27. http://www.stripes.com/news/sailor-accused-of-okinawa-rape-pleads-guilty-1.411695
4. “Okinawa police: U.S. civilian in custody in woman’s death attempted suicide,” 2016 May 21. http://www.tokyoreporter.com/2016/05/21/okinawa-police-u-s-civilian-in-custody-in-womans-death-attempted-suicide/
“American military employee arrested in Japan in connection with strangling death of 20-year-old woman,” 2016 May 20. http://news.nationalpost.com/news/world/american-military-employee-arrested-in-japan-in-connection-with-strangling-death-of-20-year-old-woman
“Okinawa governor seeks audience with Obama at G-7,” 2016 May 23. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201605230051.html
“EDITORIAL: Okinawa leader Onaga is right: SOFA needs a sweeping review,” 2016 May 24. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201605240023.html
5. “Okinawa Gov. Onaga meets with Walter Mondale, calling for cancellation of Henoko relocation,” 2016 May 19. http://english.ryukyushimpo.jp/2016/05/26/25115/
“Governor Onaga announces a third lawsuit over Henoko land reclamation,” 2016 January 19. http://english.ryukyushimpo.jp/2016/01/25/24400/
“Okinawa governor moves to pull plug on US base relocation,” 2015 March 23. http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2015/03/23/403044/Okinawa-orders-halt-to-US-base-work
“Okinawa governor orders halt on US airbase construction,” 2015 March. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/03/okinawa-governor-orders-halt-airbase-construction-150323103106544.html
“Tokyo snubs Okinawa’s new anti-base governor,” 2015 February 4. http://thediplomat.com/2015/02/tokyo-snubs-okinawas-new-anti-base-governor/
6. “ Secretary of State John Kerry And Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida Before Their Meeting,” 2016 April 10. http://http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2016/04/255679.htm
7. “Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Abe of Japan at Hiroshima Peace Memorial,” 2016 May 27. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/05/27/remarks-president-obama-and-prime-minister-abe-japan-hiroshima-peace
8. “Massive rally planned in Okinawa to protest woman’s murder,” 2016 May 23. http://www.japantoday.com/category/crime/view/massive-rally-planned-in-okinawa-to-protest-womans-murder/comments/asc/id/6657564