Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Americans Kept Comfort Women

There are times when I feel that there's no real point to keeping one of these things up... when I look at the readership stats and think "is it really necessary"?

Then I read something like this, and remember what it really is... a place to be able to speak out, at least in some small way, and say that THIS IS INTOLERABLE.

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An Associated Press review of historical documents and records shows American authorities permitted the official brothel system to operate despite internal reports that women were being coerced into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.

The documents show the brothels were rushed into operation as American forces poured into Japan beginning in August 1945.

"Sadly, we police had to set up sexual comfort stations for the occupation troops," recounts the official history of the Ibaraki Prefectural Police Department, whose jurisdiction is just northeast of Tokyo. "The strategy was, through the special work of experienced women, to create a breakwater to protect regular women and girls."...

..."I rushed there with two or three RAA executives, and was surprised to see 500 or 600 soldiers standing in line on the street," Seiichi Kaburagi, the chief of public relations for the RAA, wrote in a 1972 memoir. He said American MPs were barely able to keep the troops under control.

Though arranged and supervised by the police and civilian government, the system mirrored the comfort stations established by the Japanese military abroad during the war.

Kaburagi wrote that occupation GIs paid upfront and were given tickets and condoms. The first RAA brothel, called Komachien -- The Babe Garden -- had 38 women, but due to high demand that was quickly increased to 100. Each woman serviced from 15 to 60 clients a day....

...Occupation leaders were not blind to the similarities between the comfort women procured by Japan for its own troops and those it recruited for the GIs.

A December 6, 1945, memorandum from Lt. Col. Hugh McDonald, a senior officer with the Public Health and Welfare Division of the occupation's General Headquarters, shows U.S. occupation forces were aware the Japanese comfort women were often coerced.

"The girl is impressed into contracting by the desperate financial straits of her parents and their urging, occasionally supplemented by her willingness to make such a sacrifice to help her family," he wrote. "It is the belief of our informants, however, that in urban districts the practice of enslaving girls, while much less prevalent than in the past, still exists."
Just how long has this been under wraps? Thousands upon thousands of GIs took part in this, and the American military condoned and supported these practices until MacArthur (thankfully) shut the whole sordid mess down in 1946, and there has been no acknowledgement or apology for this in SIXTY YEARS?

We all know how screwed up Imperial Japan was. It wasn't fascist per se, but it was certainly not a healthy society, and definitely ridden with nationalism and fascism. That's the sort of thing that the "Greatest Generation" was fighting against, and defeating it is seen by most Americans as the greatest success in their country's history, with the rehabilitation of Germany and Japan following their defeats running a close second. And now we're finding out that the single most egregious crime of the Imperial Japan, sexual coercion (if not out and out slavery), was enthusiastically embraced by the American occupation? That the "heroes" of the Pacific War, the lions of history, the grandfathers and great-grandfathers that all Americans look up to and venerate were lining up en masse to pay to violate some poor Japanese girl over, and over, and over again?

With the official sanction of the American occupational government?


There needs to be an accounting, as much for this as for the practices of the Japanese themselves. There is no possible way that the Treaty of San Francisco covers this. The presumed moral superiority of the Americans over the Japanese in WWII does not excuse this, either, but only makes it more imperative. It damages the credibility and morality of what most Americans call their finest hour, and of the moral foundation of American foreign policy itself.

(Whatever remains.)

It also provides instant and renewable ammunition for those in Japan who want to minimize the issue of what Imperial Japan did. How are other comfort women supposed to be able to seek justice when those who should be their greatest allies were no better? The House of Representatives' attempts to highlight the issue are now little more than a sick joke. These women will likely now never see proper recompense, as the waters will be muddied by calls for American recompense to Japan.

All this because the GIs couldn't keep it zipped up.


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