The US House of Representatives today is debating a Democrat-sponsored bill to pay reparations to the people of the Pacific island of Guam for the crimes committed against during World War II by the Japanese Army. (Here’s the text of H.R. 1595). Yes, the American taxpayer is paying reparations for the crimes of the Imperial Japanese army. But perhaps this isn’t the liberal boondoggle some conservatives are making it out to be.
Let’s get one thing straight: The United States has already paid a heavy debt in the blood of every American soldier who was wounded or killed liberating the island from Japanese occupation.
Eric at Red State lists the name of every American fatality and the list runs on for hundreds of names. In fact, the Guam campaign claimed 7,800 casualties, of whom 2,124 died between July 21 and August 10, 1944.
It should be noted that one commenter at Red State says this bill is the result of the Guam War Claims Review Commission to investigate whether residents of Guam were shortchanged in general reparations payments made by the US to invaded protectorates and territories during WWII and it is only making up for the shortfall some six decades later. I’m still not sure that this justifies the payment of the reparations.
I will also note that the bill itself characterizes it as a “recognition of the suffering and loyalty” of the residents of Guam who were and are US citizens. This reopens the debate that arose after 9/11 whether the US taxpayer should pay reparations for the evil inflicted by foreign powers or groups upon US citizens. I think that sometimes such payments are appropriate, although I would rather see Japan pushed to pay the claims rather since that country is responsible for the damage it did to Guam.
While many on the right-side of the blogosphere are characterizing this as another expression of left-wing, blame-us, America-last, self-hatred, I’m not so sure. The people of Guam suffered intensely during 32 months of occupation by the Japanese Empire and especially so because they were and are American citizens. And if you read the commission’s report, you’ll see that other Pacific Islanders—such as those in the Philippines, Micronesia, the Aleutians and Pribilofs, Wake Island, etc.—received much more comprehensive compensation for their suffering and more comprehensive aid for rebuilding after the war.
Conservatives are mistaken if they think this is a battle worth fighting. It is not.
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