Can anyone say straw man?

Komori Yoshihisa, defender of Japan’s honor Sankei Shimbun‘s editor at large based in Washington, has “exposed” the alleged activities of Chinese-American groups in putting the screws on House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-CA-12) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-8) to get them both to support rapid passage of the comfort women resolution.

Komori argues that Lantos, who was supposedly content with Prime Minister Abe’s remarks during his visit to Washington in late April, has changed his mind due to pressure from Asian-American groups, including the Global Alliance for Preserving the History of World War II in Asia and Chinese Americans for Democracy in Taiwan. He seemingly bases his argument on an article from the Bay City News Service in early June, in which Ignatius Ding, executive vice president of the aforementioned Global Alliance, complained about being ignored by Lantos and Pelosi, and that if Lantos did not change his course, “it would be time for new representation” in California 12, which the article notes is 33% Asian-American.

That is a very thin basis for claiming that the passage of the bill in Lantos’s committee and its likely passage by the whole House is the product of the activism of Asian-American groups.

First, what is the basis for thinking that Lantos, who was re-elected with 76% of the vote in 2006 and has never be re-elected with lower than 66% of the vote, is concerned that an interest group has threatened to challenge him next year? Even assuming that Asian-American voters united to unseat Lantos, would that be enough to remove him?

Second, and more insulting, why does Komori not even entertain the possibility that perhaps Lantos came to see the merit in passing the resolution after a bunch of Abe’s cronies chose to remind Washington why the resolution needed to be considered in the first place?

It is simply too easy a dodge to point at Asian-American activist groups and blame them for what Congress does, and it is fallacious to argue that Congress and its members are simply cat’s paws at the mercy of lobbyists. H.Res.121 passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee by a 39-2 margin, with Congressmen Paul and Tancredo, the lone dissenting votes, opposing on constitutional grounds, not out of sympathy with Japan. H.Res.121 now has 151 co-sponsors from both parties and from all parts of the country. Are there some members who have signed on to this resolution because it is a risk-free way of (potentially) gaining the support of Asian-American voters? Sure. Is it all a conspiracy by Asian-American groups, acting in cahoots with Seoul, Beijing, and Pyongyang, to turn the US against Japan (a Manchurian resolution, in other words)? I, for one, am skeptical of this argument, which has been advanced in one form or another all across the non-Japanese Japan blogosphere. (Try here and here to start.) As hard as it is to believe, maybe members of Congress actually think that “Japanese public and private officials have recently expressed a desire to dilute or rescind the 1993 statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on the ‘comfort women’, which expressed the Government’s sincere apologies and remorse for their ordeal.”

Maybe, just maybe, Japan has yet to make proper amends from its crimes, and that saying so does not necessarily make one a Japan basher. While at one point in this process it was reasonable to ask whether Congress should be sitting in judgment of history, now that the H.Res.121 has been passed on to the full House and waits in the pipeline, that question is moot.

Like it or not, Congress will consider this resolution — and if it must, I would rather it act on the side of historical justice than not act and shield the revisionists, relativists, and outright deniers of Imperial Japan’s systematic crimes against its neighbors.

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