Cold Comfort: the Japan Lobby Blocks Resolution on WWII Sex Slaves
Even as top congressional Republicans were protecting Mark Foley from exposure for soliciting teen pages, they were simultaneously helping Japan cover up its past record of institutionalized rape and sexual enslavement of Asian women. The Japanese cause was greatly aided by Bob Michel, a highly paid lobbyist and former G.O.P. congressman with close ties to the party's leadership.
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.
Beginning in the 1930s, Japan rounded up as many as 200,000 women and girls, mostly from Korea, China, and the Philippines, and forced them to serve as prostitutes for its soldiers in order to increase troop “morale.” The Japanese called these sex slaves “comfort women”; many were raped and beaten, and some were killed after they acquired sexually-transmitted diseases or became “overworked.” Some of the women were so humiliated that they never returned to their homes after the war, and many of those who did kept quiet about their experiences.
Japan long insisted that the comfort women were willing prostitutes and only acknowledged the sex slavery system in 1993 after documents discovered in the Japanese Army archives proved its true nature. The Japanese government backed the establishment of the quasi-governmental Asian Comfort Woman Fund in the mid-1990s but it has refused to offer direct compensation. Many of the women and their families have refused to accept money from the fund because they say Japan has never taken responsibility for its actions.
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.”
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