The always helpful editorial board of The New York Times advises yet another world leader on how he should behave.
In the hearts of leaders
The New York Times
SUNDAY, JULY 23, 2006--For years, the prime minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizumi, has been making a pilgrimage to a shrine to the war dead that includes 14 Class A war criminals from World War II, seven of whom were hanged.
This shameless pandering to the right outrages China and other victims of Japanese imperialism and makes many Japanese fear that Koizumi is embracing the old militarism. Yet Koizumi is believed to be planning another of these visits to Yasukuni Shrine before he steps down in September. And his likely successor, Shinzo Abe, has said he would do the same. (Abe also recently suggested that Japan should attack North Korea's missiles on the launch pad.)
Last week, a Japanese newspaper added to the national anxiety over this issue by publishing portions of a diary of a former member of the imperial household. He revealed that Hirohito, the emperor who led Japan into a Nazi alliance and a drive to rule Asia, stopped going to the shrine in 1978 after it added the war criminals to the list of thousands of souls lost in Japan's wars. "This is from my heart," Hirohito was quoted as saying.
One would think this would have some effect on Koizumi and his supporters. But he told reporters dismissively that "everyone has their own feelings" and that the emperor's remorse would have no effect on him.
The emperor almost certainly committed war crimes himself, which were ignored only because of the exigencies of the postwar era. But apparently this elderly product of an imperial age had more room in his heart for doing the right thing than a self-styled modern reformer, international leader and Elvis lover.
Ah, the obligatory Nazi reference, signet ring of evil!
[Imperial conquest of Asia, leading to the death and displacement of millions? Bad. Alliance with the Nazis? OOooooh! Very bad!]
"One would think this would have some effect on Koizumi and his supporters." Why? Because all patriots are by definition emperor-worshippers, who fall prostrate before him as though he were the mighty tobacco container of Mito Kōmon?
Well, surprise, surprise--they aren't and they don't.
Welcome to cold-blooded, I-got-the-votes-and-you-don't democracy of modern Japan, Old Gray Lady. The emperor is just a man, if constitutionally a symbol of the nation.
Come to think of it, your own reputation would be in better shape if you had not been so quick to fall to your knees in recent years before the gilded imperial pretensions of decidedly little men.