Political Apologies Archive

AHDA Political Apology

How does the act of apologizing enable societies to come to terms with their past?

Political apologies can be a powerful tool in the re-examination of a nation's history, and the significance this history has on democratic processes. The project includes a working list of political apologies throughout history that political scientist Graham Dodds has researched and compiled.

This is a working list of major political apologies and related events. The selection criteria for compiling the list are somewhat loose, but the intent is to include any and all apologies that involve states, nations, or major political groups and actors, generally for significant public wrongs. Thus, apologies by individual politicians for more narrow matters (e.g., alleged personal or criminal failings) are generally excluded.

Should you wish to add to the list, please e-mail ahda@columbia.edu.

Date of Apology Title Summary Source
10 April 1979 1979: Egypt rejects a demand by Israel to apologize

 Egypt rejects a demand by Israel to apologize for offering to aide Syria.

 

 

“Egypt Bars Apology to Israel for Private Speculation on Aiding Syria.” New York Times. April 11, 1979.
19 September 1980 1980: USA-Iran USA release of American hostages

 President Carter refuses to apologize to Iran in order to secure the release of American hostages

Gwertzman, Bernard. “President rules out apology to Iranians to free hostages.” New York Times. September 19, 1980.
September 1980 1980: Iran-USA Iran drops demand that the U.S. apologize

Iran drops its demand that the U.S. apologize for past policies towards Iran, as a precondition for resolving the hostage crisis.

Kaufman, Burton. The Presidency of James Earl Carter. Kansas, 1993. p203.
1 November 1981 1981: Sweden says that the Soviet apology insufficient

Sweden says that the Soviet apology regarding the stranded submarine is insufficient, but the submarine and its crew are released.

“Sweden maintains tough line on sub.” New York Times. November 1, 1981.
30 October 1981 1981: Soviet Union-Sweden Soviet Union conveys “unreserved formal regrets”

 The Soviet ambassador to Sweden conveys “unreserved formal regrets” to the Swedish foreign minister over a Soviet submarine that ran aground in Swedish territorial waters

Tavuchis, Nicholas. Mea Culpa. Stanford, 1991. p105.
26 October 1983 1983: USA -Britain U.S. invasion of Grenada.

Ronald Reagan apologizes to Margaret Thatcher for not warning her in advance of the U.S. invasion of Grenada.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/nov/10/reagan-apologise-angry-thatcher-grenada-white-house-tapes
3 September 1983 1983: South Korea- Soviet Union demands Soviet Union apologize for flight 007

South Korea demands that the Soviet Union apologize and provide reparations for shooting down Korean Air Lines flight 007 on September 1, killing all 240 passengers and 29 crew members on board.

Lohr, Steve. “Koreans demand apology and money from Russians.” New York Times. September 3, 1983.
August 1983 1983: The United- France apology for escape of Nazi war criminal to Bolivia

The United States formally apologizes to France for having helped Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie escape to Bolivia to avoid prosecution after World War II.

Tavuchis, Nicholas. Mea Culpa. Stanford, 1991. p106.
June 1983 1983: The USA-Japanese compensation to interned Japanese Americans

The U.S. Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians recommends that Congress pass legislation providing an official apology and compensation to interned Japanese Americans.

Personal Justice Denied. Civil Liberties Public Education Fund, 1996. p456.
25 June 1983 1983: The USA-Marshall Islands sign a compact

The U.S. and the Marshall Islands sign a compact under which the U.S. will establish the Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal to grant compensation for injury resulting from nuclear testing in the 1950s.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/bomb/peopleevents/pandeAMEX51.html
1984 1984: Japan -South Korea World War II

September 7, 1984:  Alluding to World War II, Japanese Emperor Hirohito tells the visiting South Korean President that “it is regrettable that there was an unfortunate period in this century.”

Shriver, Donald W., Jr. An Ethic for Enemies. Oxford, 1995. p135.
8 May 1985 1985: West German President stresses the importance of remembering, guilt

In a speech to Parliament, West German President Richard von Weizsacker stresses the importance of remembering, guilt, and reconciliation.

Krondorfer, Bjorn. Remembrance and Reconciliation. Yale, 1995.
18 November 1985 1985: Philadelphia Mayor W. Wilson Goode apologizes for the Move disaster

 Philadelphia Mayor W. Wilson Goode apologizes for the Move disaster that left 11 people dead, 61 houses destroyed by fire, and 250 people homeless.

“Did I Make a Mistake? Yes.” Time. November 18, 1985. p47.
23 October 1985 1985: Japan-United Nations Apology for world War II

In an address to the United Nations, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone apologizes for Japan’s role in World War II.

Tavuchis, Nicholas. Mea Culpa. Stanford, 1991. p106.
August 1985 1985: U.S., Rev. Jerry Falwell apologizes to Desmond Tutu

 In the U.S., the Rev. Jerry Falwell apologizes for having called Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa a “phony.”

“Falwell Offers Tutu Qualified Apology.” Los Angeles Times. August 24, 1985.
1986 1986: Massachusettspasses the first law in the U.S to protect apologies

Massachusetts passes the first law in the U.S. to protect apologies from legal proceedings, such that an expression of sympathy cannot be regarded as admitting liability.

Rehm, Peter H. and Denise R. Beatty. “Legal Consequences of Apologizing.” Journal of Dispute Resolution. Volume 1996, Issue 1.
3 October 1986 1986: Japan- USA Ethnic minorities in the U.S.

 Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone apologizes for making offensive remarks about ethnic minorities in the U.S.

“The Apology in Japan: Mea Culpa Spoken Here.” New York Times. October 4, 1986.
17 August 1986 1986: The United Church of Canada- Canada’s native peoples Official apology

The United Church of Canada officially apologizes to Canada’s native peoples for past wrongs inflicted by the church.

Tavuchis, Nicholas. Mea Culpa. Stanford, 1991. p109-110.
27 June 1987 1987: Televangelist- apology for adulterous relationship

 Former PTL televangelist Jim Bakker repeats an apology to Jessica Hahn, with whom he had an adulterous relationship seven years earlier.

“Jim Bakker Offers Apology To Jessica Hahn With PM-PTL.” Associated Press. June 24, 1987.
4 March 1987 1987: USA-Iran Iran-Contra

Ronald Reagan admits wrongdoing in the Iran-Contra scandal but offers no apology.

Troy, Gil. Morning in America. Princeton, 2005. p250.