Friday, April 27, 2007


This story has been bouncing around for a while now, but given the current pending legislation in the U.S. Congress, Abe's visit etc., it is probably worth noting:

Documents: U.S. troops used 'comfort women' after WWII

TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- Japan's abhorrent practice of enslaving women to provide sex for its troops in World War II has a little-known sequel: After its surrender -- with tacit approval from the U.S. occupation authorities -- Japan set up a similar "comfort women" system for American GIs.

An Associated Press review of historical documents and records -- some never before translated into English -- shows American authorities permitted the official brothel system to operate despite internal reports that women were being coerced into prostitution. The Americans also had full knowledge by then of Japan's atrocious treatment of women in countries across Asia that it conquered during the war.

Tens of thousands of women were employed to provide cheap sex to U.S. troops until the spring of 1946, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur shut the brothels down.

A couple of quick reactions:

--anyone who expresses shock or surprise at the idea of American soldiers frequenting brothels (and the U.S. military at least tacitly approving of the progress) probably hails from the Captain Renault school of ignoring the painfully obvious:
"I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"

--I think I have a tiny scintilla (emphasis on both "tiny" and "scintilla") of empathy for the Japanese actions in this case: if you fervently believed (not least because you were told this on a daily basis) that the Americans were sub-human barbarians who would be sure to rape every Japanese woman in sight once they reached the islands, would you not at least consider the horrific choice of trying to provide "services" for them in order avoid far more widespread and indiscriminate rape? There is a firm and strong moral case for saying "no" (expressed nicely in Ursula Le Guin's story, "The ones who walked away from Omelas"). But I can, I think, at least understand where the Japanese may have been coming from.

--Regardless of the underlying morality, doesn't this "revealation" make it even more problematic for the U.S. to criticize Japan about Comfort Women?

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