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Endless apologies

Public confessions and apologies are a bad habit imported from undemocratic countries. Ian Buruma says they should stop

By Ian Buruma   June 1998

Apologies are all the rage. President Clinton apologised for the slave trade. Tony Blair apologised for the potato famine. The list goes on. Why this rash of apologies? Is it a good thing?

A month ago I was in Tokyo working on a television documentary about Japanese war apologies (or the lack of them). One of my tasks was to interview a former Japanese war criminal. He had been an army doctor, who had taken part in medical experiments in China. Budgets were tight and time was short. My brief was made clear by the director. “We want two things,”…

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