Fri, Mar 01, 2002 - Page 13 News List

Bush as Japan's Arthur Andersen

The US has turned a blind eye to, permitted, encouraged, and even designed Japan's system of structural fraud

By Steven C. Clemons


Why should Goldman Sachs and George Bush expect Japan to reconcile its financial accounts and non-performing loans when it is clear that Japan's political architecture inhibits accountability on any front, particularly in matters of Japan's historical memory? Official Japan cannot bring itself to apologize to the "comfort women" who were forced to act as sex slaves for Japan's soldiers; it cannot manage either empathy or the national will to call for a different arrangement for American forces channeled into its poorest prefecture, Okinawa; it cannot overcome -- by leadership or regulation -- the fundamental involvement of the yakuza and corruption-ridden political machines that have devastated the health of Japan's economy; and it cannot apologize to the American POWs that Mitsui and Mitsubishi used as slave labor during the war.

However, one of the key reasons why Japan does not reconcile its past with the present, either in finance or in historical matters, is that the United States has at various times turned a blind eye to, permitted, encouraged, and even designed this system of structural fraud and unaccountability.

In many ways, Japan is Enron, and George Bush is Arthur Andersen. When George Bush, during his recent trip to Tokyo, stated that he had looked Koizumi in the eye and saw a bold reformer, and that the US government had full faith and confidence in Koizumi to pull off a set of Herculean and probably impossible economic and financial reforms, Bush was merely furthering the fraud.

Similarly, the US State Department has for years blocked the release of certain papers related to deals cut among nations on the eve of the San Francisco Treaty. Because of pending lawsuits in both the California and federal court system brought by POWs seeking damages and apologies from Japanese firms that enslaved them, these old materials -- some of which remain classified -- have a fundamental bearing on contemporary issues. Using as an excuse a "fear of biasing pending legal cases," the State Department has refused to comply with the American government's own instructions, through what is called the "Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group," to fully disclose American archives on the San Francisco Peace Treaty. The law requires the State Department to declassify this material, and yet it is failing to do so. The evidence should be the evidence, and courts should be the arena where challenger and defender come to a legally binding solution.

In September of last year, the Congress by votes of 395-33 in the House and 58-34 in the Senate ordered the State Department to stop interfering in the POW's efforts to obtain relief through the judicial process. But the White House intervened to subvert this congressional action at the level of the joint House-Senate conference to reconcile the different versions of the spending bill to which these instructions were amended. There are only five times in American congressional history, since 1789, when a provision that was debated, voted on, and passed in both house of Congress, subsequently disappeared in the conference process in reconciling the House and Senate versions of a bill.

The Bush administration engineered an insertion into the Conference Report that reads this "provision would be an impediment to America's effort to build a broad coalition against terror." The staffers of the Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations Committee, who worry about funding and not US-Japan affairs, were unwilling to argue with White House and State Department emissaries. They were led to believe that Japan would not cooperate with America in the war against terror if the provision was not dropped. One staffer stated that they were told by high level authorities that there was a "quid pro quo" involved and that Japan had threatened to withhold cooperation in the anti-terror effort if the POW provision was not dropped.

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