Japan’s Got A Boehner for Comfort Women

I just got home, it’s nearly midnight, and what do I find in my inbox but another guest-post from Davesgonechina…enjoy!

I just couldn’t resist. From Harpers, which is so shrill it is now exporting surplus beyond U.S. shores:

For the past seven years, a coalition of Korean-American human rights and religious groups have been pressuring congress to urge Japan to accept responsibility for forcing women and girls into sexual slavery during the World War II era. This shouldn’t be terribly controversial, since the historical facts are clear…

Japan has always been able to block attempts to pass a congressional resolution on the exploitation of
comfort women, partly because it runs a lavishly-funded Beltway lobbying operation. The Bush Administration has quietly assisted in attempts to block a resolution on comfort women. According to Mindy Kotler, the director of Asia Policy Point, a research center on Japan and northeast Asia, the Administration views Japan as the key regional bulwark against an emerging Chinese regime that may be hostile to the United States in the future. “The administration wants Japan to be a central part of America’s Asian security architecture—above Australia, India, and the British Navy,” she said. “Any issue that the Japanese have defined as disturbing has been shunted aside to ensure that nothing upsets the alliance with Japan – and I mean nothing, whether it’s a trade dispute or taking responsibility for the comfort women.”

Not long ago, though, it looked like a measure had a decent chance of getting through. The coalition pressing Congress on the issue had traditionally sought to win a concurrent resolution, which must be approved by both chambers. This year the coalition worked for a resolution in only the House, and one was finally brought forth in April by Democrat Lane Evans of Illinois and Republican Chris Smith of New Jersey. The non-binding measure called on Japan to formally “acknowledge and accept full responsibility” for the sexual enslavement of “comfort women” and to stop denying its crimes – for example, by stripping mention of the topic from school textbooks.

The resolution was referred to the International Relations Committee and quickly gained co-sponsors, which alarmed the Japanese government. Enter Bob Michel, a top Washington lobbyist with Hogan & Hartson and a thirty-eight-year House member from Illinois, who served fourteen years as the G.O.P.’s minority leader. The Japanese government pays his firm about $60,000 per month to lobby on the sole matter of historical issues related to World War II, which also include claims concerning Japan’s vile abuses of American P.O.W.s, including the use of slave labor. (Michel, incidentally, is only the most prominent of a small gang of lobbyists which Japan retains to handle World War II issues.)

…On September 22, twenty-five congressional co-sponsors of the measure, including Mike Honda of California, the leading Japanese-American in Congress, sent a letter to Hastert and Boehner asking them to bring the resolution to the floor before Congress adjourned for the November elections. But mysteriously, no word was heard from the G.O.P. leadership about when the resolution would be brought to a vote.

Exactly what happened next is not clear, but word on the Hill is that the Bush Administration, Michel, and other Japanese lobbyists went to work on Boehner – and on Hastert, who reportedly is hoping to be named ambassador to Japan after he retires and who made clear that he was unhappy with the resolution. By last Wednesday, Boehner’s office had made clear that the comfort women resolution would not be brought to a vote before the end of the week – a key deadline since Congress would be adjourning until after the midterm elections. (Michel declined to return calls, as did the offices of Congressmen Boehner and Hastert, both of whom may be preoccupied with other pressing mattersat present.)

So there’s the Asia perspective on Foleygate: a pervy old Congressman’s fall from grace may just lead to Congress wagging their finger at Japan’s 60 year old (admittedly more abusive and horrific) perving, should the House come under Democratic control with a leadership that play ball with Bob Michel.

Special Bonus: Abe says no to Yasakuni. Thank God someone changed their tune for once. The Japanese government under Koizumi was turning out to be like a Giordano shop having a sale: blasting the same bloody song on loop to passersby for days and days and days…

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