Here is Norimitsu Ohnishi's latest take on Shinzo Abe's history issues.
Mr. Ohnishi points to the continued popularity in Japan of Radhabinod Pal, the Indian jurist and lone dissenting judge at the Tokyo Tribunals (he called for complete acquittal of all the defendants). The hook for his article is, of course, Mr. Abe's tribute to Judge Pal before the Indian Parliament and his meeting with the judge's 81 year-old son on his what-I-did-on-my-summer-vacation trip to India.
Mr. Ohnishi's point is that "many of postwar Japan’s nationalist leaders and thinkers have long upheld Judge Pal as a hero, seizing on — and often distorting — his dissenting opinion at the Tokyo trials to argue that Japan did not wage a war of aggression in Asia but one of self-defense and liberation. As nationalist politicians like Mr. Abe have gained power in recent years, and as like-minded academics and journalists have pushed forward a revisionist view of Japan’s wartime history, Judge Pal has stepped back into the spotlight, where he remains a touchstone of the culture wars surrounding the Tokyo trials." Although he does not say so explicitly, it is hard not to draw the conclusion that Mr. Ohnishi, by blurring the conceptual boundaries between the war and war crimes, is alleging that Mr. Abe is one of those people trying to argue that "Japan did not wage a war of aggression in Asia but one of self-defense and liberation."
But then, what to make of Mr. Abe's August 15 words of contrition on the occasion of the commemoration of the end of the war:
In WW II, Japan caused much loss and pain to the many countries, the people of the Asian nations in particular. As the representative of the people [of Japan], with a deep sense of regret, I sincerely express my feelings of sorrow to the people who became the victims.
This does not sound like the words of a man claiming "self-defense and liberation". In fact, it sounds very much like the words of a man who would knowingly pay tribute to a jurist who was convinced that "the evidence is still overwhelming that atrocities were perpetrated by the members of the Japanese armed forces against the civilian population of some of the territories occupied by them as also against the prisoners of war".
The war, most thinking Asians will tell you, had many faces, and all but the hard-core right-wing nationalists here will admit that, at a minimum, we – if not we alone - wronged the Chinese and Koreans. Mr. Ohnishi by insinuation conflates every dissenting Japanese voice – including, yes, Mr. Abe's - with the diehard denialists.
Unlike this case (of which NYT made what could be charitably called an invisible retraction), there is no obvious error on the facts. Perhaps he has wised up and decided to let the critique coalesce in the reader's mind. But I will elect to take a more accommodating view; that Mr. Ohnishi thought that Western readers, American ones in particular, would find Justice Pal's views on the war as a whole so unfamiliar and displeasing that they could be safely introduced only as background to that familiar and greatly exaggerated right-wing resurgence trope.