Sorry under pressure isn’t sorry at all

Last week, Australia’s government announced that it will formally apologize for its decades-long practice of stealing Aboriginal children and giving them to white families to raise. The practice, intented to destroy “Aboriginality” and force racial assimilation, was official government policy from 1915 to 1969. During these years, many children were raised in poor conditions in ...

596773_hashemi_25.jpg
596773_hashemi_25.jpg

Last week, Australia's government announced that it will formally apologize for its decades-long practice of stealing Aboriginal children and giving them to white families to raise. The practice, intented to destroy "Aboriginality" and force racial assimilation, was official government policy from 1915 to 1969. During these years, many children were raised in poor conditions in institutions, received little to no education, and suffered abuse at the hands of caretakers. Apologizing for it is an admirable step by the new Australian administration to move forward from a dark past. Australia aside, though, there has been a real lack of sincerity on the international apology front lately.

Over the past year, some in the U.S. Congress have attempted to force apologies from other nations on two occasions. First, the House of Representatives passed a resolution urging Japan to apologize for forcing thousands of women into sex-slavery during WWII. More recently, the House attempted a vote condemning Turkey for its treatment of Armenians at the beginning of the 20th century. And while I by no means wish to diminish these atrocities, I wonder: Would an apology elicited under pressure really contribute to the healing process?

Tareq al Hashemi (ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images)

Last week, Australia’s government announced that it will formally apologize for its decades-long practice of stealing Aboriginal children and giving them to white families to raise. The practice, intented to destroy “Aboriginality” and force racial assimilation, was official government policy from 1915 to 1969. During these years, many children were raised in poor conditions in institutions, received little to no education, and suffered abuse at the hands of caretakers. Apologizing for it is an admirable step by the new Australian administration to move forward from a dark past. Australia aside, though, there has been a real lack of sincerity on the international apology front lately.

Over the past year, some in the U.S. Congress have attempted to force apologies from other nations on two occasions. First, the House of Representatives passed a resolution urging Japan to apologize for forcing thousands of women into sex-slavery during WWII. More recently, the House attempted a vote condemning Turkey for its treatment of Armenians at the beginning of the 20th century. And while I by no means wish to diminish these atrocities, I wonder: Would an apology elicited under pressure really contribute to the healing process?

Tareq al Hashemi (ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images)

Consider the case of Iraq. This past Sunday, controversial legislation to reintegrate former Baathists back into Iraqi government became law. It was one of the key “benchmarks” the U.S. Congress has been using to judge the Iraqis’ progress. As Feisel al-Istrabadi, Iraq’s former deputy ambassador to the U.N., pointed out in a recent Seven Questions interview, de-Baathification had gone horribly awry. The question, though, is not whether reconciliation is warranted, but whether it is real and sustainable given how the bill came about—under U.S. pressure. Can reconciliation be treated like just another benchmark? Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a top Sunni leader and influential member of the Presidential Council, certainly doesn’t think so.

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