War Crimes and Japanese Luck

Launched on January 19, 2014, a petition drive is afoot among some Korean Americans to urge President Obama to include Japanese war crimes during World War II in US high school curriculum on the same order as the Nazi Holocaust. For the petition to be noticed and acted upon at least 100,000 signatures must be recorded within a calendar month, on or before February 18. As of this writing, February 4, past the halfway point, to the despair of the promoters, yours truly included, just barely 5,000 or 5% have signed on, despite the ease: visit the link http://wh.gov/l5BPA and follow the prompts, essentially supplying an email address, name, and zip code. What accounts for this apathy of the American public?

Still vividly remembering a PBS airing many years ago of General Yamashita’s war crimes trial, in which a Filipina mother testified, sobbing uncontrollably, how Japanese soldiers had fun kicking her preteen son’s decapitated head like a soccer ball, I wonder whether it would make any difference if the petition website were to include references to the Manila Massacre (1945), Singapore Chinese Massacre (1942), and Nanking Massacre (1937) in addition to the two examples cited, comfort women and human experimentation at Unit 731. I doubt it would.

Simply put, you can’t fight good luck, Japanese luck. And it has all come from Uncle Sam, then as later, first in the form of FDR’s Executive Order 9066 of 1942 decreeing Japanese internment, a sheer madness, that cost the US tax payer at least $17.6 billion, that is, 110,000 people for 4 years at $40,000 per head. In 1980 the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, ordered by Carter, conclusively found no evidence of Japanese disloyalty and recommended reparations to the survivors and their heirs, which Reagan duly paid in 1988 to the tune of nearly $2 billion with an official apology for “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” This petrifying, all-numbing sense of guilt and remorse for the injustice and barbarity of EO 9066, never mind nobody got brutalized like the Filipino boy or the millions in the massacres, extrapolates from Japanese Americans to Japan, though they are two different entities, and the American public doesn’t want to look too closely at any wrong Japan might have done, be it massacre, sex slavery, forced labor, even Pearl Harbor. So whatever their real feelings toward Japan, the ethnic Japanese internees became sacrificial lambs, unwitting or unwilling, and got their ancestral land off the hook. Who said blood is not thicker?

But Japanese luck doesn’t end there. It so happens that the victims of Japanese war crimes are mostly Asian, not Caucasian. The litmus test of one’s racism is the degree of insensitivity to an individual’s suffering on account of his or her race. Just as you don’t feel tortured swatting a mosquito, you simply don’t feel as anguished about the suffering of a person belonging to a racial or ethnic group you don’t or can’t identify with. In most cases it comes from lack of acquaintance. It is amazing how with the exchange of the simplest greetings total strangers turn into soul mates, pouring their hearts out and empathizing with each other’s needs and sufferings. But there is no chance of such bonding with the Chinese, Malay, Filipino, or Korean victims so far removed in time and space with different languages and cultures, anatomies, and it’s humanly impossible to feel for them, at least at the gut level, however vehemently the intellect may protest universal brotherhood and racial equality.

Nor is Japan the only beneficiary of this insensitivity. In 1937 Stalin had millions of ethnic Koreans uprooted from their settlements in Far East Siberia and dumped in the steppes and deserts of Central Asia, barely a quarter of the original number surviving, but the world has shrugged it off to date, getting Russia off the hook, though the relocations of Germans and other Europeans by the Soviets have been roundly condemned as “genocide” or “ethnic cleansing.”

Japan’s streak of good luck continues. Just when the country is completely demoralized as a defeated nation at the mercy of the US viceroy Douglas MacArthur, along comes the Korean affair, popped by the 30-some-year old youngster Ilsung Kim eager to please Stalin, who had given the go-ahead, taking Truman at his word that Korea lay outside the US defense interest in the Far East. Belatedly waking up to the proximity of Korea to Japan, an apple of the eye to the US, as well as the domino effect of Korea’s fall on the balance of power in the region, Truman orders an all out response. What Stalin thought would not rise above the level of a local incident balloons out to a mini-World War III with millions committed on each side though fought in the confines of the peninsula. The US might be rich and mighty but the Pacific was just too vast to cross each time with supplies, especially when Russia and China were only a hop, skip, and a jump away. In short order Japan becomes the outsource capital of the world for 3 plus years. Nearly half of the US GNP dumped on the isles of the rising sun brings about the Jinmoo Prosperity, making Shigeru Yoshida kick up his heels in a precursor of breakdancing and croon, “They beat us in war but we’ll own them, lock, stock and barrel.”

Japan almost catches up with Uncle Sam as the world’s largest economy, until bumped off recently by resurgent China, which turns out to be a blessing in disguise: alarmed, Uncle Sam wants to rearm Japan to hold China in check. Forget World War II. That’s history. Ride out the uproar over Nanking, Singapore, Manila, Korea, stonewall comfort women, plead the Fifth on freezing a pregnant woman to see which expires first, mother or fetus. Just fit out an aircraft carrier or two and sail up and down the coast of China, which is getting cockier by the day.

Oh, did I mention how during the 3-plus year Korean exercise Koreans butchered each other, as well as the Chinese, Turks, Brits, Soviets, Yanks, whoever stood in the way, in the most horrendous, unspeakable manner imaginable, of course to get royally butchered back in kind by all of them, Christian Yanks included? Nobody, no race has a lock on cruelty which, like the zillion viruses laying siege to our body for a crack in the armor, will pounce on us and take over, the moment we let down our defenses of decency, tolerance, perspective. Not that this in any way excuses what the Japanese did to those poor women, mostly teenagers, in their Prostitution Corps or the pregnant woman at Unit 731.

2 thoughts on “War Crimes and Japanese Luck

  1. 참 좋은 관점입니다. 한국어로 번역되어 한국 신문에 실렸으면
    좋겠다는 생각을 합니다. 제가 이곳 한국일보에 보내보겠습니다.
    이차대전 종전 후 미국이 그 많은 돈을 투입해서 일본을 재건한 이유는 명백합니다. 중국과 쇼련을 동북아에서 견재하기 위한 미국의 국익 때문이겠지요. 한반도는 그당시 별로 값어치가 없는 나라였고.
    지금에 와서 미국을 탓할 수는 없다고 봅니다.
    일본은 본시 윤리나 도덕과는 거리가 먼 칼로 선 사무라이 나라입니다.
    그래서 세계 경제대국다운 면이 전혀 없지요.

    • I know you are an outstanding essayist in Korean and will improve my articles by translation. Go ahead and see what the Korea Times has to say about your proposal.
      You are right about the geopolitics of the Far East. Now that Korea is a power to reckon with it may well be in the best interests of America to recruit Korea as well as Japan to offset Russia and China.

Leave a Reply