The Bogeyman

  • Share
  • Read Later
Few international incidents come with their own ready-made theme tune. But when Emperor Akihito arrived at Buckingham Palace on the first leg of his state visit to the U.K. Tuesday, he encountered a scene straight out of David Lean: A thousand British veterans, former Japanese prisoners of war, whistling "Colonel Bogey" as they defiantly turned their back on the royal carriage.

At issue: The "deep remorse and heartfelt apology" issued by the Japanese prime minister this January for the way British troops were treated during World War II. The Japanese Labor Camps Survivors Association says that's not enough. Never mind that Akihito is constitutionally prevented from apologizing himself, or that the atrocities in question took place when he was a mere five years old. As national heroes, the vets retain the unconditional support of the British press -- which means that despite pleas for respect from Tony Blair and the obvious embarrassment of the queen, nobody's going to be whistling the retreat any time soon.