532 Gregory W. Streich
injustices, for example, may be a convenient way for a nation to move forward. However, it is convenient precisely because it rests on political expediency rather than justice. Thus, James Cone’s declaration that “[a]mnesia is an enemy of justice” must be taken seriously.29 Since amnesia and amnesty forget the victims of crimes and injustices, for James Booth, they “raise the question about who can forgive and forget, and they seem to violate our debt of delity to the victims, which is redeemed through remembrance.”30 Forgetting the past cannot undo the fact that injustices were committed. Therefore, remembering “serves to reintegrate the victims into their community and to restore that community after the rupture induced by the crime.”31 However, Booth is assuming a community into which victims can be “reintegrated.” Given the injustices of slavery, the 3/5ths Compromise, the Fugitive Slave Acts, etc., in the US, what is at stake is not simply reintegrating victims into a just political community that existed in the past prior to a rupture, but actively remembering and repairing so as to create a new political community that has yet to exist.
This brings us to Elazar Barkan’s argument, which identies a trend toward a new international morality in which nations atone for historical injustices in order to move forward. Examples of this new morality are many. South Africa established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as part of the transition to a post-apartheid South Africa. Japan apologized for exploiting what they called “comfort women” during WWII in response to criticism from other countries such as South Korea. Germany and German corporations have provided various forms of compensation to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. In response to legal challenges to its banking institutions brought by holocaust survivors, Switzer- land has had to come to grips with how it enabled Nazi injustices. To promote reconciliation, nations have pursued restitution with a variety of strategies ranging from Truth Commissions, formal apologies, to monetary reparations. 32
Reconciliation efforts are in part due to the political mobilization and pressure brought to bear on governments by survivors of these injustices. As such, it is a sign that survivors and their descendants have enough power (typically in the form of moral suasion) to disrupt the ruling memory, resist the urge to “normalize” the past, and call governments to account for past crimes. Further, governments have found different ways of responding, whether out of a desire to do the right thing or to avoid being shamed in the eyes of the global community. Whatever the motives, for Barkan, this process engages both perpetrators and victims in a dialogue addressing what, if any, forms of restitution can bring some atonement and reconciliation. Part of this process is recalling and remembering the past, since, as Barkan notes, “Our histories shape
29 James Cone, Black Theology and Black Power (New York: Harper & Row, 1989), p. xi. Similarly, Booth, 1999, op. cit., p. 257, observes that “Atonement and remembrance are d u t i e s ; f o r g e t t i n g i s a n e v i l . ” 3 0 W. James Booth, “The Unforgotten: Memories of Justice,” in American Political Science R e v i e w 9 5 : 4 ( 2 0 0 1 ) , p . 7 8 5 . 3 1 32 Ibid., p. 787. For more detailed discussions of how different countries have dealt with different cases of injustice, see Elazar Barkan, The Guilt of Nations; Roy Brooks (ed.), When Sorry Is Not Enough; and Martha Minow, Between Vengeance and Forgiveness. Also, for an examination of the morality, power, and limitations of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, see Robert Rotberg and Dennis Thompson (eds), Truth V. Justice: The Morality of Truth Commissions (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000).