Saturday, August 25, 2007

A "Remarkable" Speech- part 4

In his speech on August 22, 2007 to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, President Bush drew a parallel between the war in Iraq and the successful installation of democracy in Japan following World War II. It was quite a reach, and falls short. He argued:

Those who said Shinto was incompatible with democracy were mistaken, and fortunately, Americans and Japanese leaders recognized it at the time, because instead of suppressing the Shinto faith, American authorities worked with the Japanese to institute religious freedom for all faiths. Instead of abolishing the imperial throne, Americans and Japanese worked together to find a place for the Emperor in the democratic political system.

And the result of all these steps was that every Japanese citizen gained freedom of religion, and the Emperor remained on his throne and Japanese democracy grew stronger because it embraced a cherished part of Japanese culture. And today, in defiance of the critics and the doubters and the skeptics, Japan retains its religions and cultural traditions, and stands as one of the world's great free societies. (Applause.)

You know, the experts sometimes get it wrong. An interesting observation, one historian put it -- he said, "Had these erstwhile experts" -- he was talking about people criticizing the efforts to help Japan realize the blessings of a free society -- he said, "Had these erstwhile experts had their way, the very notion of inducing a democratic revolution would have died of ridicule at an early stage."

Instead, I think it's important to look at what happened. A democratic Japan has brought peace and prosperity to its people. Its foreign trade and investment have helped jump-start the economies of others in the region. The alliance between our two nations is the lynchpin for freedom and stability throughout the Pacific. And I want you to listen carefully to this final point: Japan has transformed from America's enemy in the ideological struggle of the 20th century to one of America's strongest allies in the ideological struggle of the 21st century. (Applause.)

Unfortunately for this twist, MSNBC found and put on Countdown that "one historian," John Dower, historian and professor at MIT and author of the award-winning "Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II." Stating that the use of his quote was "really perverse," Dowe asserted "everything says this is entirely different" than occuped post-war Japan. He cited Japan's "strong democratic tradition before" the militaristic culture took hold, the "fault lines" in Iraqi society absent in Japanese society, and the "formal war with a formal surrender" after World War II. He noted that the U.S.A. began planning for the occupation in 1942 and that democratic reforms were completed within the first three years of the surrender of Japan. Dowe asserted that he is "very distressed" at the "misuse of history" and maintained Administration officials "do not use history for illumination but for propaganda." Dowe was informed that has White House spokesman Tony Fratto claiming Bush used the quote "to in no way endorse his view of Iraq, only his view of Japan," suggesting that President Bush now is lecturing us on Asian history.

Better yet: with a spokesman, not Mr. Bush, issuing this preposterous statement, the President is spared the accusation of yet again lying to the American people.

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