TAYLOR BOSVELD WRITES – Why is there a war memorial in the middle of Tokyo honoring people who committed wartime atrocities?

Why has the ex-Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, recently visited the war memorial for the second time in as many months since stepping down?

The first visit drew criticism not only in Japan but around the world, from those who view the memorial as honoring and celebrating Japan’s imperialist and militaristic regimes during World War II. Death estimates for the Second World War range from 70-85 million. This easily makes it the deadliest war in history. Most who died were civilians.

These visits Abe has made are seen by many in the West as celebrating those who lost the war and were on the wrong side of history.  Yet two counter-arguments must be made. The first has to do with the saying that “history is written by the victor.” The allied powers in WWII- the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and many other nations- were victorious but are also guilty of committing war crimes. Perhaps the most infamous example would be the Red Army’s Katyn Massacre on the Eastern Front. In addition, some consider the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki atrocities. Smaller, lesser known atrocities committed by the Allies include the Biscari Massacre, the Lippach Massacre, and the Laconia Massacre. Many such atrocities seem to have been swept under the rug and forgotten in the vast history surrounding the war.

The second counter-argument would be that these atrocities are part of Japan’s history-and not everyone who fought in the war committed war crimes.  What about those other fallen soldiers? The celebration of history’s fallen heroes is something every country cherishes. Maybe Abe was honoring them, and his critics don’t understand.

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