This month marks the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II. Since then, and with the assistance of the United States, Japan has become an internationally respected economic and democratic power, where human rights violations are nearly nonexistent. This latter aspect is the opposite of Japan’s reputation and actions up to and during WWII. Since VJ Day, when Japan effectively had its nose rubbed in its mess, that nation has apologized for its atrocities and made reparations, a practice that dates back thousands of years. Japan, the region and the world, are better for it.
Compare the Japanese scenario with Turkey. Just after the end of World War I, when the crumbling Ottoman Empire was practically emptied of its nearly 2 million Christian Armenians, trials were held, in absentia, for those responsible for the Armenian genocide. These trials were, in part, show trials to give the gestating Turkish Republic a leg up on entry into the refined West. Consequently, nothing substantive was accomplished by these trials – no apologies, no reparations and no restitution were demanded or offered.
Reflecting on the end of WWII, Japan’s involvement in the war, and his country’s past apologies, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that his country has apologized and has made great progress in righting the many wrongs it caused. When he failed to offer a new apology last month, on the anniversaries of the dropping of the atomic bombs, many in the region were shocked and insulted. Abe reiterated his country’s “profound grief” for the millions killed and stated that future generations should not be saddled with the burdens of constant apologies.
Japan is right for not apologizing again because Japan already, sincerely, apologized. Japan learned from its mistakes; whether such wisdom was voluntarily acquired or otherwise obtained is up for debate, but what is not debatable is that the world is a better place, because Japan is a better country.
Future generations of Japanese need not be, according to Abe, “predestined to apologize.” However, since Armenians (and Assyrians and Greeks) have yet to receive an apology from their Turkish tormentors, their future generations are predestined to demand, and receive, as a starting point toward eventual reconciliation, an apology.
Prime Minster Abe has apologized once. Whether he apologizes again or a thousand times again, what truly matters is the first apology. Turkey has yet to offer an apology for the misery it caused when it introduced the world to genocide.
For there to be peace in the Middle East and its surrounding regions, Turkey must act responsibly. If it takes the United States, Great Britain and Israel to join the cause of national attitude adjustment, so be it. Turkey certainly does not have the courage or character, at least not with its current “leadership,” to make good on its own. Prime Minister Abe has acted responsibly: “We ... must squarely face the history of the past. We have the responsibility to inherit the past, in all humbleness, and pass it on to the future.”
Turkey has passed on a lie, and the West has bought into it. Pretending the Armenian Genocide did not happen is a fool’s game. The consequences of the West’s sloppiness and intentional shirking of its due diligence have been devastating, from Eastern Europe, to Sudan. And with Turkey’s not-too-cleverly-concealed support for the Islamic State, things are getting worse.
The amount of misery in the world today is nearly incalculable, but much of it can be traced directly to Turkey and the free pass it obtained after the utter despair it brought about during and after World War I. Today the world is wringing its hands at the unbelievability of the reports coming from the “Islamic State” – beheadings, torture, rape, burning people alive, deportations through the desert, sexual slavery – yet all it has to do is cease coddling a pugnaciously unrepentant Turkey. Everything the “Islamic State” knows, it learned from Turkey.
When we were children we all learned that when you do something wrong, you apologize – that is what big boys and girls do. Unfortunately, Turkey has a lot of growing up to do, and until then the world will continue wringing its hands in disbelief.
Marshall D. Moushigian of Fresno is an attorney and financial adviser.