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
7 December 2002 2002: Iraq- invading Kuwait in August, 1990

 Iraqi President Saddam Hussein apologizes for invading Kuwait in August, 1990.

 

“Saddam apologizes to Kuwait.” cnn.com. December 7, 2002.
10 December 2002 2002: USA- Senator Strom Thurmond’s 1948 segregationist campaign

U.S. Senator Trent Lott issues a written apology for a speech the week before, in which he praised Senator Strom Thurmond’s 1948 segregationist campaign for U.S. president.  Democrats and others had called for the apology.  Lott repeats his apology several times over the next several days, repeatedly appealing for “forbearance and forgiveness.”  He also expands his apology to include not only the remarks in question, but also various instances of past “misbehavior” and insensitivity with regard to racial issues.

 
Stolberg, Sheryl Gay. “Under Fire, Lott Apologizes for His Comments at Thurmond’s Party.” New York Times. December 10, 2002; Hulse, Carl. “Lott Apologizes Again on Words About ’48 Race.” New York Times. December 12, 2000; Halbfinger, David M. “Pas
11 December 2002 2002: USA apology to South Korean deaths of two South Korean girls

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage issues another official apology to South Korean President Kim Dae Jung for the deaths of two South Korean girls crushed by an American armored vehicle in June.

“South Korea: Another Apology From U.S.” New York Times. December 11, 2002.
14 December 2002 2002: Boston archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law resigns, apologizes, and begs forgiveness

Boston archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law resigns, apologizes, and begs forgiveness for his mishandling of priests implicated in the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal.

“Quotation of the Day.” New York Times. December 14, 2001.
17 December 2002 2002: Norway to compensate the estimated 12,000 children of German soldiers

 The Norwegian Parliament votes to compensate the estimated 12,000 children of German soldiers who occupied the country during World War II for discrimination they suffered growing up in Norway after the war.

Norway: Payments for ‘German Children.’” New York Times. December 17, 2002.
30 December 2002 2002: Ivory Coast apologize for firing on French troops near Duekoke

 Leaders of a rebel group in Ivory Coast apologize for firing on French troops near Duekoke.

“Rebel Apology To French Unit In Ivory Coast.” New York Times. December 21, 2002.
December 2002 2002: Oregon Governor apologizes for the state’s past sterilization program

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber apologizes for the state’s past sterilization program.

Nobles, Melissa. The Politics of Official Apologies. Cambridge, 2008. p161.
28 November 2003 2002: President Bush apologizes, deaths of two South Korean girls hit by a U.S. military

 President Bush apologizes, via the U.S. ambassador in Seoul, for the deaths of two South Korean girls hit by a U.S. military vehicle in June.

Kirk, Don. “Bush Apologizes to Koreans For Army’s Killing of 2 Girls.” New York Times. November 28, 2002.
19 April 2003 2002: USA Symbionese Liberation Army apologize

 After pleading guilty to murder, former members of the Symbionese Liberation Army apologize for a 1975 shooting in a California bank.  The members were brought to trial after the victim’s family pressured prosecutors to proceed based on information in newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst’s 1982 book on the terrorists.

Broder, John M. “In a Quiet End to a Case, 4 Ex-Symbionese Liberation Army Members Plead Guilty to Murder.” New York Times. November 8, 2002.
1 April 2003 2003: Superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy apologizes to cadets

The outgoing superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy apologizes to cadets for the damage done to the institution by a scandal involving sexual assaults of female cadets.

Janofsky, Michael. “Academy’s Top General Apologizes to Cadets.” New York Times. April 1, 2003.
26 March 2003 2003: Japan- South Korean women seeking compensation for being forced into sexual slavery

Japan’s top court rejects an appeal from South Korean women seeking compensation for being forced into sexual slavery in World War II.

“Japan: Court Rejects Claims Of Wartime Sex Slaves.” New York Times. March 26, 2003.
22 March 2003 2003: South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission delivers its final findings,

South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission delivers its final findings, warning against a blanket amnesty and advocating reparations for apartheid.

Thompson, Ginger. “South African Commission Ends its Work.” New York Times. 3/22/03.
19 March 2003 2003: French Jew whose parents were deported to a Nazi death camp sues France’s national railroad company

 In France, an Austrian-born French Jew whose parents were deported to a Nazi death camp sues France’s national railroad company for 1 Euro and demands that it acknowledge the role it played in sending tens of thousands of French Jews to their deaths in World War II.

Riding, Alan. “Nazis’ Human Cargo Now Haunts French Railway.” New York Times. March 20, 2003.
8 January 2003 2003: South Carolina Governor apologizes for the states past sterilization program

South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges apologizes for the states past sterilization program.

Nobles, Melissa. The Politics of Official Apologies. Cambridge, 2008. p161.
23 January 2003 2003: Two U.S. pilots apologize to the family members of four Canadian soldiers mistakenly killed

Two U.S. pilots apologize to the family members of four Canadian soldiers mistakenly killed in an air strike in Afghanistan in 2002.

Halbfinger, David. “Pilots Apologize to Relatives of Canadians They Bombed.” New York Times. January 24, 2003.
27 January 2003 2003: The USA- South Korea American U-2 spy plane crash in South Korea

The U.S. apologizes to people injured when an American U-2 spy plane crashed in South Korea.

“U.S. apologizes to spy plane crash victims.” www.cnn.com. January 27, 2003.
4 February 2003 2003: Gypsy organizations -I.B.M. alleged automation of the Holocaust

 A Swiss court clears the way for a lawsuit by Gypsy organizations against I.B.M. for allegedly helping to automate the Holocaust.

Green, Pater. “Gypsies’ Suit Against I.B.M. Is Given Green Light by Swiss Court.” New York Times. February 5, 2003.
11 February 2003 2003: British Columbia apologizes for its past treatment of Indians

British Columbia apologizes for its past treatment of Indians.

 

“British Columbia Apologizes to Its Indians.” New York Times. February 12, 2003.
14 February 2003 2003: South Korea- permitting illegal payments to North Korea

 South Korean President Kim Dae Jung apologizes for permitting illegal payments to North Korea in advance of a summit in 2000.

“S. Korea’s Kim apologizes for cash scandal.” Philadelphia Inquirer. February 14, 2003.
22 February 2003 2003: Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pardons five Jews

 Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pardons five Jews jailed for spying for Israel.

“Iran Pardons Five Jews Jailed as Spies.” New York Times. February 22, 2003.