July 3, 2007
Even in the "West," Myths Live Free and Die Hard
Today, the Defense Minister of Japan, Fumio Kyuma, was forced to resign following remarks he made about World War II. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earlier defended Kyuma for his remarks; but when various factions in the Diet began to complain, including members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party -- elections coming up, you know -- Abe dumped him like a dead rodent.
All right, big deal; PMs and presidents dump cabinet members all the time for various reasons. But what I find remarkable is what exactly Kyuma said that got him canned... and let me recap a bit of history for those of us educated in government-run schools.
By the end of the war in 1945, both America and Japan had suffered horrific casualties during the fierce jungle combat, the firebombings, and through starvation and disease in Japan. But the Japanese continued to resist until a few days after the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (These were swiftly followed by the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, which may also have played a role.)
Americans were in no mood for a negotiated settlement or a stalemate; we had just crushed the Nazis, and we had lost hundreds of thousands of soldiers. This was the country that had bombed Pearl Harbor us in a dirty, underhanded sneak attack: There is no way we would have accepted anything short of unconditional surrender. And even if we had, Tojo would have considered anything less than that a "victory" for his side... and he would have built up his forces and launched more attacks in a few months.
Thus, Americans believed -- and not without good reason -- that anything but unconditional was unacceptable. We would have invaded the Japanese "mainland" (the four central islands); the Japanese would have resisted to the last man or child; and casualties would have been staggering, even by the standards of World War II.
In addition, the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, and the likelihood that they would enter the war, invade Japan, and force a partition à la Germany, terrified the Japanese far more than the prospect of American conquest. And now at last, we come to the dreadful words that Defense Minister Kyuma said that eventually ended his political life today:
In a public appearance on Saturday -- the unofficial start of the campaign for the upcoming election -- Mr. Kyuma said that dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 “ended the war,” adding, “I think that it couldn’t be helped.”
Otherwise, Mr. Kyuma said, the war would have dragged on and the Soviet Union would have ended up occupying northern Japan.
And that's it! Sachi has read the transcript in Japanese, and she reports that he said nothing more or worse in the original language than is translated here by the Times. But few scholars, even including Japanese, would object to either of these two claims... so why did such a hue and cry erupt over them?
Here is the sad answer:
The comments by Mr. Kyuma, who himself represents Nagasaki in Japan’s lower house, caused widespread anger by apparently treating lightly Japan’s status as the only country ever targeted by nuclear arms.
Although the debate over the use of nuclear arms is not the taboo it once was, Japan’s self-image as a special victim of World War II remains deeply rooted, even as revisionist politicians like Mr. Abe have tried to minimize Japan’s militarist past.
There you have it: Many Japanese consider themselves the real victims of World War II. On the Left -- the bitter, anti-war, pacifist, anti-nuclear, Japanese Left -- they imagine themselves victims of the atomic age. And on the Right -- the militarist, xenophobic, neoimperialist, Japanese Right -- they're still furious that we wouldn't allow them to have an empire like the British and Soviets had. As much as the Japanese Left and Right hate each other (and they do, and not at all cordially), like Sunni and Shia, they can always cast aside their petty differences for the greater cause: burning hatred of America.
Kyuma ran smack into the circular saw of "America derangement syndrome" in Japan; while neither extreme Right nor extreme Left can agree on either prescription or diagnosis of Japan's ills, they both emphatically agree that America is somehow the culprit. Thus, anything that any politician says that justifies the atomic bombings that ended the war -- even as innocuous as what Fumio Kyuma opined -- will cause activists on both sides the aisle to rise up and demand he cut his stomach.
Add to that ire the fact that neither extreme is ever happy with the LDP, who are relentlessly moderate: Each imagines that in elections against a crippled LDP, the extremes can make major gains (and both are probably correct). Thus, anything to damage the ruling coalition is a dream come true for the Communists and the Fascists who still duke it out in the peanut gallery of Japanese politics.
With close elections looming, the leaders of the Liberal Democratic Party (especially Prime Minister Abe) decided that cowardice was the better part of valor: Rather than educate the Japanese population about their own militarist history (which the current government is in the process of denying anyway), they kow-towed to base tribalism and ran Kyuma off the reservation.
Anything to avoid shattering myths of moral and military superiority that, like a bonsai tree, have taken many decades to grow, twist, and shape into a form that raises Japanese self-esteem... and avoids dealing with the ugly reality.
Kyuma's words were a mirror; and as the good book* says, "when a monkey looks in, no acolyte looks out."
* The Principia Discordia, or How I Found Goddess and What I Did to Her When I Found Her, by Malaclypse the Younger and Lord Omar Kayyam Ravenhurst.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 3, 2007, at the time of 9:29 PM
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Apropos our post below about erstwhile Defense Minister of Japan, Fumio Kyuma -- who was forced to cut his (career) stomach for saying, in essence, that the cost of America not dropping the two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945... [Read More]
Tracked on July 11, 2007 3:00 AM
The following hissed in response by: Terrye
My father was in the fleet that was awaiting the invasion of Japan in 1945. He arrived in Nagasaki five days after the bomb was dropped.
His own feelings were mixed. On one hand he was sure that he and millions of other people would have died if that bomb had not been dropped, on the other he felt horror for what those people suffered. He had screaming nightmares about it for the rest of his life.
That life was not a long one. My Dad died 35 years to the day that bomb was dropped. The doctor said the kind of cancer my Dad had was often radium induced and usually took about 35 years to manifest.
I will never know if that bomb killed my father, but I know that war killed 60 million people and it would have killed more than that if the invasion of the mainland had come about.
Go ask the Koreans and Chinese and Australians and Filipinos who the victims were in the Pacific. I think you would get a different answer.
The following hissed in response by: FredTownWard
All in all a disgraceful, embarrassing episode, and one that strongly suggests that Japan STILL isn't ready for Prime Time, that is accepting the sort of responsibilities that go with its position in the world. Just for example after this it is hard to see Japan playing a credible "bad cop" in the NK nuke situation, threatening to actually ARM itself with nukes if the PRC refuse to lean on their zoo fraternity enough to get the job done.
What makes it even MORE infuriating is that the Japanese have NO RIGHT to endulge in this moronic victimhood because durring WWII Japan was FRANTICALLY TRYING TO BUILD AN ATOMIC BOMB, TOO! One needn't buy EVERY claim Robert K. Wilcox makes in "Japan's Secret War: Japan's Race Against Time To Build Its Own Atomic Bomb" in order to realize:
A) Japan DID try to build an atomic bomb during WWII.
B) Japan got further than the Nazis did.
C) Japan would have used its atomic bomb on us without a SECOND'S hesitation if it could have.
D) Therefore Japan should REALLY put a sock in it because we had already nuked (if you'll pardon the expression) their whining self-serving arguments about Hiroshima and Nagasaki merely by citing: "Pearl Harbor", "Bataan Death March", "Nanjing Massacre", etc., etc., ETC., BEFORE their WWII nuke program was widely known.
The following hissed in response by: lsusportsfan
I think this is an extremely interesting piece. I agree with you one hundred percent that Japn does not need to whitewash his past at all. My Grandfather was going to be part of that invasion and instead was on one of the boats that entered Toyko bay.
However, I supect what I will say will not be popular but here I go as a very conservative republican.
Looking back the atomic Bombings of those Cities cannot be justifyed. It is not a conclusion I started with. It is not a conclusion that wanted ot arive at. But in the end it is one I cannot deny. It should be noted that I am not alone and neither was alone in that at the time
It has been shown that Army Chief of Staff George Marshall had strong misgivings about the target of these cities. He was one that realized a rubicon was about to be passed
Sec of War Stinson was a part of this crowd too and it must be realized that Truman himself was troubled . We see from his Diary Entry from 7/25/45
He [Stimson] and I are in accord. The target will be a purely military one and we will issue a warning statement [known as the Potsdam Proclamation] asking the Japs to surrender and save lives. I'm sure they will not do that, but we will have given them the chance. It is certainly a good thing for the world that Hitler's crowd or Stalin's did not discover this atomic bomb. It seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered, but it can be made the most useful.
Truman announced in his Public statement that we had hit a military base. That is complete balderdash and we knew that.
Other noteables that were dissenters
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
"...the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing."
thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of 'face'. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude..."
(Mandate For Change, p. 380)
Admiral William D. Leahy
"It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.
"The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children."
(I Was There, p. 441)
President Herbert Hoover
In early May of 1946 Hoover met with General Douglas MacArthur. Hoover recorded in his diary, "I told MacArthur of my memorandum of mid-May 1945 to Truman, that peace could be had with Japan by which our major objectives would be accomplished. MacArthur said that was correct and that we would have avoided all of the losses, the Atomic bomb, and the entry of Russia into Manchuria."
(Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, pp. 350-351)
General Douglas MacArthur
Norman Cousins was a consultant to General MacArthur during the American occupation of Japan. Cousins writes of his conversations with MacArthur, "MacArthur's views about the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were starkly different from what the general public supposed." He continues, "When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted. What, I asked, would his advice have been? He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor."
(Norman Cousins, The Pathology of Power, pp. 65, 70-71)
THere were other various dissenters that I could post.
Now in my next post let me explain why I think this is not justifyed
The following hissed in response by: lsusportsfan
PArt II of my post
Before Billy Graham and his televised crusades there a man that was antionwide must see. That was Archbishop Fulton Sheen who had a weekly TV show. He was namby pamby pacifist. But he said something that struck me. He said
When, I wonder, did we in America ever get into this idea that freedom means having no boundaries and no limits? I think it began on the 6th of August 1945 at 8:15 am when we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima."
Now a word about the Japanese. I ahve had the privildge of going several times to the Truman Presidentail library. One is struck even on slow days how many Japanese are there. They even have books where people can place their thoughts. One is struck that they are not in some rage. They did not come to vent. They came to try to reconcile and almost mourn and try to understand. It should also be rememebered that while Our European allies were largely AWOL Japan has been there with resources and lots of money in IRaq. They are our friend now and I think before people go "What the nerve" they need to sit back and reflect on that.
I try my best to to give a reason for what I believe. This issue often comes up especailly in the Catholic and Christian Apologetic circles. It comes up more often in Catholic circles it seems because we are constantly debating or asked our views on "Just War" ethics.
TO Christians and especially Catholics the targeting and what happened at Nagasaki has never gone unnoticed. In fact there is some evidence or "tradition" that in fact this event was predicted from the cross of a Christian Japanese Martyr.One of the original martyrs executed at Nagasaki in 1597 was a Mexican-born Franciscan friar, canonized in 1862 as St. Philip of Jesus. As he was about to die on his cross, he is reported to have foretold that one day Nagasaki would be destroyed by "a ball of fire dropping from the sky."
It has not escaped our notice that Nagaskai was where many Crucifiction of Christians occurred. One in ten people were Catholics. As the Karl Keating pointed out in 2004 in discussing this topic
Fat Man exploded directly above the Catholic cathedral in Nagasaki. The city was the historical center of Catholicism in Japan and contained about a tenth of the entire Catholic population. The cathedral was filled with worshipers who had gathered to pray for a speedy and just end to the war. It is said their prayers included a petition to offer themselves, if God so willed it, in reparation for the evils perpetrated by their country.
Was this just? I for one have increasing doubts as to the casualty numbers that often talked about if we had to invade Japan. In fact it appears from noteables I mention there was doubt if we would even have to do it. But let me ask people to consider this scenario
Let us say that in order to break the will of the German people we had arrived at a city on the Rhine American Servicemen then proceeded to go onto a town of lets 60,000 and executed every man, woman, and child in it. All to being a swift end to the war. I doubt any here would say that would be moral. My challenge to you is WHATS THE DIFFERENCE. Make it a Coastal town on Japan if you would like. I can see none my self
Just war ethics as we practice it is well over 1500 years old. The Catechism restates what Vatican II and now 3 Popes pretty much endorsed. The Church stated
Council, endorsing the condemnations of total warfare issued by recent popes (3), declares: Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.
Now does one have ot be a Nuclear weapon Pacifist? No not totally and there is a middle ground. But it is apparent to me that the bombing here as well as the bombing of Dresden and Toyko have very troubling moral questions. I am seeing a lot of loose talks on forums about the use of such weapons in the WOT. I think we shoudl take a step back
THe question comes down to this . I hear this alot.If the other guys started the fight, they deserve whatever they get. In a defensive war it is not a matter of "My country right or wrong" but of "My country can do no wrong," which is an odd thing coming from conservatives who, on domestic matters, can be highly critical of their government's moral failings. The atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima cannot be squared with Chrsitian moral principles or Priciples of Warfare that the "Civilized World" has adhered too for Centuries because the bombings deliberately targeted non-combatants. The evil done by our enemies did not exonerate us from the moral law. Their evils did not provide us justification for evils of our own. Being a Christian in peacetime is difficult; it is more difficult, but even more necessary, in wartime.
Anyway bash away lol
The following hissed in response by: JenLArt
Kyuma made a great point!
I've always thought of our using the Bomb in terms of a U.S. invasion and the fact that it saved countless American soldiers' lives and Japanese, too.
But Kyuma has made a valid observation--guess you have to be Japanese!--the Russians could very well have beat us to it!
Our we could have fought the Cold War with the Russians occupying not only Eastern Europe but Manchuria and Japan, too, on their other side.
They had some payback to offer after their defeat by the Japs at Sahkalin Island (where the Japanese successfully staged their first sneak attack).
Poor Kyuma. Guess the Japanese are still touchy about losing the war and losing emperial face. Fancy!
The above hissed in response by: JenLArt at July 6, 2007 1:32 AM
The following hissed in response by: Trickish knave
Having pulled into Japan many times over the last 20 years I can give at least one relevant observation to your post.
Many Japanese consider themselves the real victims of World War II.
I went to Peace Park inside Hiroshima and the memorial is very sobering. One thing we all noticed, almost immediately, is that the timeline on the wall has WWII starting when the U.S. dropped the bomb, not when they invaded Pearl Harbor.
I have lived in Hawaii for 15 years and regularly visit the submarine memorial at Bowfin and usually take a walk around the Arizona Memorial visitors center once a month, although I usually do not make the trip to the actual memorial. It is interesting to see so many Japanese tourists walking about and really studying the memorials, plaques, displays, and old U.S. and Japanese hardware. I have even seen some older Japanese cry but I do not know if it is because they feel shame for what their country did to us or because of our retaliation.
I have taught Japanese sonarmen over the last 5 years and the hallway to their classroom is lined with WWII pictures of the old recruiting posters. Out of political correctness, I was not allowed to display the hardcore ones like "Smack the Japs". But there are a few that brag about how much tonnage US submarines sank complete with rising suns painted on the hulls of surface ships. The students look at those and never once has anyone looked offended. That isn't saying much because they are too polite anyway. I usually try to make light of the pictures and they appreciate it with polite laughter while pointing at the images.
Maybe I was just lucky, or perhaps it was their polite culture, but I have never been the victim of anything negative because I was an American visiting their country. Well, except on The Haunch when the mamma-san's would put up their arms in an 'X' sign to keep us from entering their bars.
The above hissed in response by: Trickish knave at July 6, 2007 11:41 AM
The following hissed in response by: Chris Hunt
The United States and its allies had accepted nothing less than unconditional surrender from Nazi Germany, and was not going to take less from Japan. There was no way that the Japanese, after years of committing atrocities against civilians and military personnel, would be allowed to dictate any terms at all. MacArthur is talking through his hat when he says that we could have negotiated a peace with the Japanese if they kept the emperor. The emperor was left in a ceremonial position after the war. The emperor was not the problem, the problem was with the military cabal that actually ran the country. They were not going to surrender.
The Japanese had large forces in China, which would have to be confronted. The invasion of Japan was being planned. The battle for Okinawa had just concluded, providing a clear signal of the difficulty of invading Japanese home territory. 12,000 American dead; 107,000 Japanese military dead and 100,000 Japanese civilians killed. The Japanese demonstrated appalling callousness in their treatment of their own civilian population. They were planning to arm their populace, every man woman and child, most with only the crudest of weapons, such as bamboo spears. They were fully expected to die in the service of the emperor. American planners expected one million American casualties. Millions of Japanese would have died in an invasion, either killed outright or of starvation during the bitter fighting.
We were already burning Japan's cities to the ground, with no apparent effect on the Japanese leadership. More civilians were killed in one gigantic raid on Tokyo than were killed in either atomic blast. One alternative to invasion was a naval blockade of Japan, effectively starving them into submission. This would have the practical effect of genocide, given the Japanese penchant for self-immolation before the dishonor of surrender. The reason the Soviet Union was recruited to the Pacific effort was to have them deal with the Japanese forces in China, as well as provide cannon fodder for an invasion. Stalin never had any problem sacrificing his people for enlarging his empire.
Given all of these factors, please explain how just war theory rules out the use of atomic weapons, killing 150,000 people, as an alternative to killing millions?
The following hissed in response by: Dick E
The first story I read on this topic was in our local MSM rag. There it stated that Mr. Kyuma’s faux pas was in denying that the US dropped the A-bombs as experiments to see how well they really worked. The article claimed that Japanese school children are taught that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were actually just A-tests performed on human sacrificial lambs. (Sachi, I know Japanese kids don’t necessarily learn the same WWII history we do, but they aren’t taught THAT, are they?)
I wondered at the time how this could be an accurate story. After all, we had, of course, tested an A-bomb before dropping any on Japan. We knew the devastation would be horrendous (if the bombs worked, which was not a given), but the resulting radiation/fallout were pretty much unanticipated. Why would we need to test the bombs on humans?
More importantly (at least to the issue I address here), all these facts are widely known -- including, I assume, in Japan. One can claim -- although I certainly don’t -- that we were immoral monsters for using such weapons, but to say we were just performing ghoulish experiments goes beyond the pale. I have yet to see a correction or retraction, but the subsequent newspaper story about Mr. Kyuma’s resignation tracked with Dafydd’s account.
To lsusportsfan: I decline to respond to your overall point, but just one detail -- the primary target for Fat Man on August 9, 1945, was Kokura, not Nagasaki. Were we targeting Christians/Catholics? Come on!
The following hissed in response by: Sachi
Sachi, I know Japanese kids don’t necessarily learn the same WWII history we do, but they aren’t taught THAT, are they?
Not when I was in school in the late 70's. The high school history book I have from 1976 does not say anything like that, nor do I remember being taught such a thing. But that was 30 years ago. A lot have changed since then.
When I talk with Japanese young people nowadays, I get the feeling they don't know that Japan was ever a military dictatorship, that Japan invaded Southeast Asian countries, or that Japan attacked the US first (let alone the fact it was a sneak attack.)
They seem to think that Japan was a peaceful, democratic country minding its own business, and suddenly America dropped two atomic bombs.
At least that is the impression I get from them.
The above hissed in response by: Sachi at July 7, 2007 2:59 PM
The following hissed in response by: FredTownWard
Sorry, JH, your argument doesn't work for a couple of reasons.
First, it is more than a little silly to contend that incinerating a city with one nuclear weapon is evil but that incinerating a city with a whole bunch of incendiary bombs is "OK". Thus, you either have to ALSO condemn CONVENTIONAL firebombings like Hamburg, Tokyo (more killed than in EITHER Hiroshima or Nagasaki), and Dresden (more killed than in Hiroshima and Nagaski COMBINED) or admit to an illogical, unscientific, and hypocritical attitude towards nuclear weapons extending to their use before the special horrors of nuclear weapons could possibly have been known.
Second, we didn't have enough nuclear weapons to SPARE any for demonstration use. "Little Boy" and "Fatman" were IT, our ENTIRE arsenal of nuclear weapons for AT LEAST a year if not longer.
In other words we were BLUFFING. We COULDN'T destroy Japan from the skies. If the Japanese had held out after Nagasaki as they held out after Hiroshima, we'd have had no choice but to go back to a conventional invasion of Japan, which WOULD have slaughtered MILLIONS more Japanese, not to mention Americans, and would LIKELY have resulted in Soviet occupation of parts of Japan and, like in the case of Germany, partition. Another possibility that cannot be ruled out is that this delay might have given Japan enough time to finish ITS OWN atomic bomb.
How can anybody POSSIBLY suggest this as the better outcome?
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