2. The Date which will Live in Infamy
As Year 500 opened in October 1991, other memories displaced the coming quincentennial.
December 7 would be the 50th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor,
the "date which will live in infamy." Accordingly, Japanese attitudes
and practices were subjected to close scrutiny, and found wanting. Some profound
defect left the aberrant Japanese unwilling to offer regrets for their nefarious
In an interview in the Washington Post, Foreign Minister Michio Watanabe
expressed "deep remorse over the unbearable suffering and sorrow Japan
inflicted on the American people and the peoples of Asia and the Pacific during
the Pacific War, a war that Japan started by the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor."
He said that the National Parliament would pass a resolution on the 50th anniversary
of the crime, expressing Japan's remorse. But this turned out to be just more
Japanese treachery. Penetrating the disguise, New York Times Tokyo Bureau Chief
Steven Weisman revealed that Watanabe had used the word hansei, "which
is usually translated as `self-reflection' rather than `remorse'." The
statement of the Foreign Minister does not count as authentic apology. Furthermore,
Japan's Parliament is unlikely to pass the resolution, he added, in the light
of President Bush's firm rejection of any apology for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki
No one considers an apology for the 1000-plane raid five days after Nagasaki
on what remained of major Japanese cities, a triumph of military management
skills designed to be "as big a finale as possible," the official
Air Force history relates; even Stormin' Norman would have been impressed. Thousands
of civilians were killed, while amidst the bombs, leaflets fluttered down proclaiming:
"Your Government has surrendered. The war is over." General Spaatz
wanted to use the third atom bomb on Tokyo for this grand finale, but concluded that further devastation
of the "battered city" would not make the intended point. Tokyo had
been removed from the first list of targets for the same reason: it was "practically
rubble," analysts determined, so that the power of the bomb would not be
adequately revealed. The final 1000-plane raid was therefore dispersed to seven
targets, the Air Force history adds.2
Some went beyond George Bush's dismissal of any thought of apology for the use
of nuclear weapons to kill 200,000 civilians. Democratic Senator Ernest Hollings
told South Carolina workers they "should draw a mushroom cloud and put
underneath it: `Made in America by lazy and illiterate Americans and tested
in Japan'," drawing applause from the crowd. Hollings defended his remark
as a "joke," a reaction to Japan's "America bashing." The
humorless Japanese did not find the joke amusing. The event was briefly reported, provoking no inquiries
into the American psyche.3
Japan's obsessions with the bomb, which provoke much scorn here, were also revealed
after the Texas air shows where the atomic bombing was reenacted annually for
many years (perhaps still is) before an admiring audience of tens of thousands,
with a B-29 flown by retired Air Force General Paul Tibbets, who lifted the
curtain on the atomic age at Hiroshima. Japan condemned the display as "in
bad taste and offensive to the Japanese people," to no avail. Perhaps the
hypersensitive Japanese would have expressed similar reservations about the
showing of a film entitled "Hiroshima" in the early 1950s in Boston's
"combat zone," a red-light district where pornographic films were
featured: it was a Japanese documentary with live footage of scenes too horrendous
to describe, eliciting gales of laughter and enthusiastic applause.
In more sedate intellectual circles, few have considered the observation by
Justice Röling of the Netherlands after the Tokyo Tribunal where Japanese
war criminals were tried and convicted: "From the Second World War above
all two things are remembered: the German gas chambers and the American atomic
bombings." Or the impressive dissent by the one independent Asian Justice,
Radhabinod Pal of India, who wrote: "When the conduct of the nations is
account the law will perhaps be found to be that only a lost cause is a crime...
if any indiscriminate destruction of civilian life and property is still illegitimate
in warfare, then, in the Pacific war, this decision to use the atom bomb is
the only near approach to the directives...of the Nazi leaders... Nothing like
this could be traced to the present accused" at Tokyo, seven of whom were
hanged along with over 900 other Japanese executed for war crimes; among them
General Yamashita, executed for atrocities committed by troops over whom he
had no control at the war's end. Even the reactions of high-ranking US military
officials have been little noted, for example, Admiral William Leahy, chief
of staff under the Roosevelt and Truman Administrations, who regarded nuclear
weapons as "new and terrible instruments of uncivilized warfare,"
"a modern type of barbarism not worthy of Christian man," a reversion
to the "ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages";
its use "would take us back in cruelty toward noncombatants to the days
of Genghis Khan."4
Recognizing where power lies, Prime Minister Watanabe adopted US conventions
in expressing Japan's regrets: he traced Japan's crimes to December 7, 1941,
thus implicitly discounting hideous atrocities that killed 10 to 13 million
Chinese, by conservative estimate, from 1937 through 1945, not to speak of earlier
Passing silently over Watanabe's dating of the guilt, Weisman raises only one
question: the evasiveness of the gesture at apology. The anniversary commemoration
was based upon the same principle: killing, torturing, and otherwise abusing
tens of millions of people may not be wholly meritorious, but a "sneak
attack" on a naval base in a US colony is a crime of a completely different
order. True, to heighten the recognition of Japan's iniquity, its atrocities
and aggression in Asia are regularly tacked on to the indictment, but as an
afterthought: the Pearl Harbor attack is the real crime, the initial act of
That decision has many merits. It enables us to ruminate on the strange defects
of the Japanese character without having to confront some facts that are better
removed from history. For example, the fact that pre-Pearl Harbor, much of the
American business community and many US officials rejected "the generally
accepted theory that Japan has been a big bully and China the downtrodden victim"
(Ambassador Joseph Grew, an influential figure in Far East policy). The US objection
to Japan's New Order in Asia, Grew explained in a speech in Tokyo in 1939, was
that it imposed "a system of closed economy, ... depriving Americans of
their long-established rights in China." He had nothing to say about China's
right to national independence, the rape of Nanking, the invasion of Manchuria,
and other such marginal issues. Secretary of State Cordell Hull adopted much
the same priorities in the negotiations with Japanese Admiral Nomura before
the Pearl Harbor attack, stressing US rights to equal access to the territories
conquered by Japan in China. On November 7, Japan finally agreed to the US demand,
offering to accept "the principle of nondiscrimination in commercial relations"
in the Pacific, including China. But the wily Japanese added a qualifying clause:
they would accept the principle only if it "were adopted throughout the
Hull was greatly shocked at this insolence. The principle was to apply in the
Japanese sphere alone, he admonished the impudent arrivistes. The US and other
Western powers could not be expected to respond in kind in their dominions,
including India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cuba, and other vast regions from
which the Japanese had been effectively barred by extremely high tariffs when
they unfairly began to win the competitive game in the 1920s.
Dismissing Japan's frivolous appeal to the British and American precedent, Hull
deplored the "simplicity of mind that made it difficult for...[Japanese
generals]...to see why the United States, on the one hand, should assert leadership
in the Western Hemisphere with the Monroe Doctrine and, on the other, want to
interfere with Japan's assuming leadership in Asia." He urged the Japanese
government to "educate the generals" about this elementary distinction,
reminding his backward pupils that the Monroe Doctrine, "as we interpret
and apply it uniformly since 1823 only contemplates steps for our physical safety."
Respected scholars chimed in with their endorsement, expressing their outrage
over the inability of the little yellow men to perceive the difference between
a great power like the US and a small-time operator like Japan, and to recognize
that "The United States does not need to use military force to induce the
Caribbean republics to permit American capital to find profitable investment.
The doors are voluntarily open" -- as even the most cursory look at history
3. Missing Pieces
Also unmentioned in the historical musings is an air of familiarity about Japan's
actions in Manchuria, as they established the "independent" state
of Manchukuo in 1932 under the former Manchu emperor. The procedure was "a
familiar one," Walter Lippmann wrote at the time, not unlike US precedents
"in Nicaragua, Haiti, and elsewhere." Manchuria had claims to independent
status, surely stronger claims than, say, South Vietnam 25 years later, a fact
recognized by the US client regime, which always defined itself as the Government
of all of Vietnam, even in an unamendable article of its US-imposed Constitution.
Scholars noted that had it not been for Western intervention in support of Chinese
rule over the outer regions, motivated by the desire to increase "the sphere
of future Western investment and exploitation," the Tibetans, Mongols,
and Manchurians might well have moved towards independence (Owen Lattimore,
1934). Japan undertook to "defend" the "independent state"
against "bandits" who attacked it from China. The goal of Japan's
Kwantung army was to "liberate the masses" from exploitation by military
and feudal cliques and to protect them from Communist terrorists. Adopting the
policies favored by Kennedy doves in later years, its military leadership undertook
counterinsurgency campaigns, complete with "collective hamlets," earnest
measures to win hearts and minds, and other ideas that have a certain resonance.
Among a series of unpleasant -- hence unmentionable -- facts is the similarity
of these operations to the no less brutal and atrocious ones conducted by the
United States a few years later near China's southern border, operations that
peaked in murderous violence shortly after the Japanese documents on Manchuria
were released by the RAND Corporation in 1967, to be shelved with appropriate
silence by the cultural managers.7
The similarity is not entirely accidental. Apart from the fact that the same
thoughts naturally come to the minds of similar actors facing similar circumstances,
US counterinsurgency doctrine was consciously modelled on the practices and
achievements of World War II fascism, though it was the Nazis who were the preferred
model. Reviewing US Army manuals of the 1950s, Michael McClintock notes the
"disturbing similarity between the Nazi's view of the world and the
American stance in the Cold War." The manuals recognize Hitler's tasks
to have been much the same as those undertaken by the US worldwide as it took
over the struggle against the anti-fascist resistance and other criminals (labelled
"Communists" or "terrorists"). They adopt the Nazi frame
of reference as a matter of course: the partisans were "terrorists,"
while the Nazis were "protecting" the population from their violence
and coercion. Killing of anyone "furnishing aid or
comfort, directly or indirectly, to such partisans, or any person withholding
information on partisans," was "legally well within the provisions
of the Geneva Convention," the manuals explain. The Germans and their collaborators
were the "liberators" of the Russian people. Former Wehrmacht officers
helped to prepare the army manuals, which culled important lessons from the
practices of their models: for example, the utility of "evacuation of all
partisan-infested areas and the destruction of all farms, villages, and buildings
in the areas following the evacuations" -- the policies advocated by Kennedy's
dovish advisors, and standard US practice in Central America. The same logic
was adopted by the civilian leadership from the late 1940s, as Nazi war criminals
were resurrected and reassigned to their former tasks (Reinhard Gehlen, Klaus
Barbie, and others), or spirited to safety in Latin America and elsewhere to
their work, if they could no longer be protected at home.8
The notions were refined in the Kennedy years, under the impetus of the President's
well-known fascination with unconventional warfare. US military manuals and
"antiterrorism experts" of the period advocate "the tactic of
intimidating, kidnapping, or assassinating carefully selected members of the
opposition in a manner that will reap the maximum psychological benefit,"
the objective being "to frighten everyone from collaborating with the guerrilla
movement." Respected American historians and moralists were later to provide
the intellectual and moral underpinnings, notably Guenter Lewy, who explains
in his much-admired history of the Vietnam war that the US was guilty of no
crimes against "innocent civilians," indeed could not be. Those who
joined our righteous cause were free from harm's way (except by inadvertence,
at worst a crime of involuntary manslaughter). Those who failed to cooperate
with the "legitimate government" imposed by US violence are not innocent,
by definition; they lose any such claim if they refuse to flee to the "safety"
provided by their liberators: infants in a village in the Mekong Delta or inner
Cambodia, for example. They therefore deserve their fate.9
Some lack innocence because they happened to be in the wrong place; for example,
the population of the city of Vinh, "the Vietnamese Dresden," Philip
Shenon casually observes in a Times Magazine cover story on the belated victory
of capitalism in Vietnam: it was "leveled by American B-52 bombers"
because it was "cursed by location" and hence "was a natural
target" for the bombers, much like Rotterdam and Coventry. This city of
60,000 was "flattened" in 1965, Canadian
officials reported, while vast surrounding areas were turned into a moonscape.10
One could learn the facts outside the mainstream, where they were generally
ignored, or even flatly denied; for example, by Lewy, who assures us, on the
authority of US government pronouncements, that the bombing was aimed at military
targets and damage to civilians was minimal.
Plainly, it is better to keep the history under wraps. The Politically Correct
approach, adopted without notable deviation on the anniversary, is to date Japan's
criminal course to the "sneak attack" on Pearl Harbor; to bring in
Japan's earlier atrocities only as a device to sharpen the distinction between
their evil nature and our purity; to put aside the uneasy relation between the
doctrine that the war began on December 7, 1941 and the fact that we denounce
Japan for atrocities
committed through the 1930s, which were, furthermore, deemed acceptable in influential
circles; and more generally, to eliminate from the mind discordant notes from
past and present history.
It is interesting to see the reaction when the rules of decorum are occasionally
violated by comparisons between Japan's policies and actions and ours in Vietnam.
For the most part, the comparisons are so unthinkable as to be unnoticed, or
are dismissed as absurdity. Or they may be denounced as apologetics for Japan's
crimes, an interpretation that is quite natural. Given that our perfection is
axiomatic, it follows that any comparison drawn confers upon others a share
nobility, and thus counts as apologetics for their crimes. By the same irrefutable
logic, it follows that applause for our crimes is not apologetics, but merely
a proper tribute to our magnificence; and silence about them is only a shade
less meritorious than enthusiastic approval. Those who fail to comprehend these
truths can be condemned for their "irrational hatred of America."
Or, if not so completely beyond the pale, they can be offered a course of instruction,
like the Japanese
The ban on such subversive thoughts was revealed on the Pearl Harbor anniversary
in a striking way, to which we return (section 8). Another example is provided
by a commentary on the anniversary by the noted Japan scholar John Dower, solicited
by the Washington Post. Dower commented that there is "more than a little
irony in observing Americans ramble on about other people's military violence
and historical amnesia," considering how Vietnam and Korea have
entered officially-sanctioned memory. The invited column was rejected.11
Another pertinent question was omitted from the deliberations on the aggression
launched by Japan on December 7, 1941: How did we happen to have a military
base at Pearl Harbor, or to hold our Hawaiian colony altogether? The answer
is that we stole Hawaii from its inhabitants, by force and guile, just half
a century before the infamous date, in part so as to gain the Pearl Harbor naval
base. The centenary of that achievement falls shortly after the opening of Year
might have merited a word as we lamented Japan's failure to face up to its perfidy.
Lifting the veil, we find an instructive story.
As long as the British deterrent remained in force, the US government vigorously
defended Hawaiian independence. In 1842, President Tyler declared that the US
desired "no peculiar advantages, no exclusive control over the Hawaiian
Government, but is content with its independent existence and anxiously wishes
for its security and prosperity." Accordingly, Washington would oppose
any attempt by any nation "to take possession of the islands, colonize
them, and subvert the native Government." With this declaration, Tyler
extended the Monroe Doctrine to Hawaii. Its independence was also recognized
by the major European countries and others, and confirmed by numerous treaties
and declarations. As the century progressed, the balance of power shifted in
favor of the United States, offering new opportunities, as in Latin America.
US colonists established a thriving sugar industry, and the value of the island
as a stepping stone towards broader Pacific horizons became increasingly apparent.
Admiral DuPont had observed that "It is impossible to estimate too highly
the value and importance of the Hawaiian Islands, whether in a commercial or
a military sense." Plainly, our sphere of legitimate self-defense must
be extended to include this prize. But there was an impediment: the independence
of the island kingdom, and the "demographic problem" posed by the
90 percent majority of native Hawaiians (already reduced to one-sixth the pre-contact
era). The colonists therefore undertook to guide and assist these people, so
"low in mental culture," and to provide them with the gift of good
government -- by their betters. Planters' Monthly observed in 1886 that
the Hawaiian "does not yet realize" the "bounds and limits fixed"
and the "moral and personal obligations attending" the gift we have
offered them: "The white man has organized for the native a Government,
placed the ballot in his hands, and set him up as a lawmaker and a ruler; but
the placing of these powers in his hands before he knows how to use them, is
like placing sharp knives, pointed instruments and dangerous tools in the hands
of infants." Similar concerns about the "rascal multitude" and
their innate stupidity and worthlessness have been voiced by the "men of
best quality" throughout the modern period, forming a major strand in democratic
The first Marine landing to support the colonists took place in 1873, just 30
years after Tyler's ringing endorsement of Hawaii's independence. After failing
to take power in the 1886 elections, the plantation oligarchy prepared for a
coup d'état, which took place a year later with the help of their military
arm, the Hawaiian Rifles. The "Bayonet Constitution" forced upon the
king granted US citizens the right to vote, while excluding a large part of
the native population through
property qualifications and barring Asian immigrants as aliens. Another consequence
of the coup was the delivery of the Pearl River estuary to the United States
as a naval base. Exhibiting the "uniform" interpretation of the Monroe
Doctrine that so impressed Secretary of State Hull, his predecessor James Blaine
observed in 1889 that "there are only three places that are of value enough
to be taken. One is Hawaii. The others are Cuba and Puerto Rico." All were
shortly to fall into the proper hands.
Regular military interventions ensured good behavior by the locals. In 1891,
the USS Pensacola was dispatched "in order to guard American interests,"
which now included ownership of four-fifths of the arable land. In January 1893,
Queen Liliuokalani made a last ditch effort to preserve Hawaiian sovereignty,
granting the right to vote in Hawaiian elections only to Hawaiians, rich or
poor, without discrimination. At the order of US Minister John Stevens, US troops
imposed martial law -- to support "the best citizens and nine-tenths of
the property owners of the country," in the words of the commanding officer.
Stevens informed the Secretary of State that "The Hawaiian pear is now
fully ripe and this is the golden hour for the United States to pluck it."
Long before, John Quincy Adams had used the same imagery with regard to the
second of "the places of value," Cuba, a "ripe fruit" that
would fall into our hands once the British deterrent
is removed (see chapter 6). The US planters and their native collaborators produced
a declaration proclaiming the conviction of the "overwhelming majority
of the conservative and responsible members of the community" -- who numbered
a few hundred men -- "that independent, constitutional, representative
and responsible government, able to protect itself from revolutionary uprisings
and royal aggression, is no longer possible in Hawaii under the existing system
of government." Under protest, the Queen surrendered to the "superior
force of the United States of America" and its troops, abdicating in the
hope of saving her followers from the death penalty; she herself was fined $5000
and sentenced to five years at hard labor for her crimes against good order
(commuted in 1896). The Republic of Hawaii was established with American planter
Sanford Dole proclaiming himself President on July 4, 1894. Each sip of Dole
pineapple juice offers an occasion to
celebrate another triumph of Western civilization.
Congress passed a joint resolution for annexation in 1898, as the US went to
war with Spain and Commander George Dewey's naval squadron sank a decrepit Spanish
fleet in Manila, setting the stage for the slaughter of hundreds of thousands
of Filipinos as another ripe fruit was plucked from the tree. President McKinley
signed the annexation resolution on July 7, 1898, creating "The First Outpost
of a Greater America," a journal of the "conservative and responsible
members of the community" triumphantly proclaimed. Their iron-fisted rule
eliminated any residual interference by the "ignorant majority," as
the planters called them, still about 90 percent of the population, soon to
become dispersed, impoverished, and oppressed, their culture suppressed, their
In this manner, Pearl Harbor became a major military base in the US colony of
Hawaii, to be subjected a half-century later to a scandalous "sneak attack"
by Japanese monsters setting forth on their criminal path. On January 2, 1992,
the Institute for the Advancement of Hawaiian Affairs published a document entitled
"The Cause of Hawaiian Sovereignty," reviewing the history, in preparation
for "the 100th anniversary of the overthrow of Hawaii" in January
1993.14 Short of a dramatic change in the reigning culture, that anniversary
is destined to remain deeply buried in the memory hole, joining many others
that commemorate the fate of the victims of the 500 year conquest.
4. Some Lessons in Political Correctness
Let us return to the public commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the infamous
date, carefully sanitized and insulated from improper thoughts. Americans are
much annoyed by the unwillingness of the Japanese to face their guilt for the
Pearl Harbor crime, Urban Lehner reports in a lengthy Wall Street Journal article
on Japanese "revisionism." He quotes the Pearl Harbor memorial park
historian on "the complete absence of a sense in Japan of their own history."
"Japan's ambivalence toward remembering history," Lehner describes
a visit to the home of a "courtly" Japanese military historian, who
"can't understand why the U.S. won't forget it. `If the U.S. and Japan
are partners, why talk about Pearl Harbor forever? That's what Japanese people
are thinking,' he says. `Why do you keep reminding us?'"15
So the article ends, no comment being necessary on the unique sins of the Japanese
exhibited with such clarity.
The New York Times Magazine devoted a cover story to this peculiarly
Japanese malady by Tokyo Bureau Chief Weisman, entitled "Pearl Harbor in
the Mind of Japan." There is "little sound of remorse," the subtitle
reads, and "no commemorative ceremonies of the bombing in Japan."
The US will approach the event "from a completely different perspective,"
Weisman writes, reflexively taking that perspective to be right and proper,
no questions asked. His study of this topic exemplifies the general style and provides useful instruction in the techniques of Political
Correctness, encapsulating many of the standard gambits.16
Americans were not always so clear as they are today about the simple verities,
Weisman observes. In the late '60s, "guilt-ridden over the Vietnam conflict...American
historians were more willing to question American motives in Asia. Today, their
tone is much less apologetic" -- the last word, an interesting choice.
With the Persian Gulf war and the collapse of communism, "Times have changed,"
and "Roosevelt's drawing a line in the sand is no longer seen as improper."
Weisman's claims about the late '60s contain a particle of truth: younger historians
associated with the antiwar movement did indeed begin to raise previously forbidden
questions. They were compelled to form their own professional association (the
Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars), with very few senior faculty involved,
to discuss subversive thoughts about possible flaws in "American motives."
Though they were the cream of the graduate student crop at the time, not many
survived the authoritarian structure of the ideological disciplines; some were
eliminated from the academic world in straight political firings, some marginalized
in other familiar ways. The young scholars did receive some support in the mainstream,
notably from John King Fairbank, the dean of Asian scholarship and a figure
at the dissident extreme, often accused of crossing the line to Communist apologetics.
He outlined his own position on the Vietnam war in his presidential address
the American Historical Association in December 1968, well after the corporate
sector had called for terminating the enterprise. The war was an "error,"
Fairbank explained, based on misunderstanding and naiveté, yet another
example of "our excess of righteousness and disinterested benevolence."17
One will find very little questioning of American motives in respectable circles
then, or since. Conventional falsehoods commonly retain their appeal because
they are functional, serving the interests of established authority. Weisman's
tales about the late '60s are a case in point: they buttress the view that the
academy, the media, and intellectual life generally have been taken over by
a left-wing onslaught, leaving only a few last brave defenders of simple truths
and intellectual values, who therefore must be given every bit of support that
can be mustered for their lonely cause, a project well-suited to current doctrinal needs (see chapter 2.4).
Like all right-thinking people, Weisman takes it as axiomatic that the US stance
in the Persian Gulf and the Cold War is subject to no imaginable qualification,
surely no questioning of "American motives." Also following convention,
he evades entirely the issue of shared responsibility for the Pacific war. The
issue is not "Roosevelt's drawing a line in the sand," but rather
the decision of the traditional imperial powers (Britain, France, Holland, US)
to close the doors of their domains
to Japan after it had followed the rules of "free trade" with too
much success; and the US position, maintained to the end, that the US-Japan
conflict might be resolved if Japan would permit the US to share in exploiting
all of Asia, while not demanding comparable rights in US-dominated regions.
Weisman indeed recognizes that such issues have been raised, making sure to
frame them in a proper way. He does not refer to the discussion of the actions
of the imperial powers in
Western scholarship as events unfolded, or since. Rather, these are the "startling"
words of Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, hanged in 1948 as a Class A war criminal,
who "defiantly defended the attack on Pearl Harbor as forced by `inhuman'
economic sanctions imposed by Washington," which "would have meant
the destruction of the nation," had Japan not reacted. Could there be a particle of truth lurking behind the thought? The question need not be
answered, since it cannot rise to consciousness.
Weisman writes that "of course, most American historians would have little
trouble rendering a judgment on Japan's singular responsibility, if not guilt,"
noting Japan's "annex[ation] of Manchuria in 1931," and its "bloody
sweep through China" in 1937 and later into Indochina, driving out the
French colonial regime. No words here on the US attitude towards all of this
at the time, except for an oblique hint: "Beginning with the decision to
move naval vessels in 1940, the United
States responded to Japanese military aggression with warnings and protests"
-- nine years after the invasion of Manchuria, three years after the murderous
escalation in China. Why the delay? Weisman also puts aside other questions:
Why were Western claims to their colonial domains stronger than those of Japan,
and why did indigenous nationalists often welcome the Japanese conquest, driving
out the traditional oppressors? Nor is he troubled by a simple fact of logic:
If these were
Japan's crimes, then why do we commemorate a much later event as the "date
which will live in infamy"? Why is it "the tragedy of 50 years ago"
that evokes Weisman's inquiry into Japan's flawed psyche?
Weisman does concede a measure of US responsibility: not for what happened,
but for Japan's failure to face up to its crimes. The US wanted "to create
a democracy" after the war, but "After China fell to the Communists
in 1949 and the Korean War broke out a year later, Washington changed its mind,
deciding to foster a stable conservative Government in Japan to challenge Communism
in Asia," even sometimes allowing war criminals to regain authority. This
revision of history also has its functional utility: under the laws of Political
Correctness, it is permissible to recognize our occasional lapses from perfection
if they can be interpreted as an all-too-understandable overreaction to the
evil deeds of selected malefactors. In fact, as Weisman surely knows, Washington's
"reverse course" was in 1947, hence well before the "fall of
China" (to translate: the overthrow of a corrupt US-backed tyranny by an
indigenous movement); and 3 years before the officially-recognized Korean war,
at a time when the pre-official phase was charging full-speed ahead, as the
US-imposed regime, aided by fascist collaborators restored by the US occupying
army, was busy slaughtering some 100,000 anti-fascists and other adherents of
the popular movements that the US clients could never hope to face in political
Washington's "reverse course" called a halt to democratic experiments
that threatened established power. The US moved decisively to break Japanese
unions and reconstruct the traditional industrial-financial conglomerates, supporting
fascist collaborators, excluding anti-fascist elements, and restoring traditional
conservative business rule. As explained in a 1947 paper prepared under the
direction of the primary author of the reverse course, George Kennan, the US
had "a moral right to intervene" to preserve "stability"
against "stooge groups" of the Communists: "Recognizing that
the former industrial and commercial leaders of Japan are the ablest leaders
in the country, that they are the most stable element, that they have the strongest
natural ties with the US, it should be US policy to remove obstacles to their finding their natural level in Japanese leadership." The purge of war criminals
was ended, and the essential structure of the fascist regime restored. The reverse
course in Japan was one element in a worldwide US campaign at the same time
with the same goals, all prior to 1949.18
The reconstruction of what US technical experts angrily condemned as "totalitarian
state capitalism," with popular and democratic forces suppressed, was underway
well before the reverse course of 1947. The Occupation also determined at once
that the basic issues of war guilt would be shelved. General MacArthur "would
neither allow the emperor to be indicted, nor take the stand as a witness, nor
even be interviewed by International Prosecution investigators" at the
War Crimes trials, Herbert Bix writes, despite ample evidence of his direct
responsibility for Japanese war crimes -- available to MacArthur, but kept secret.
This whitewashing of the monarchy had "momentous" consequences for
reestablishing the traditional conservative order and defeating a far more democratic
alternative, Bix concludes.19
Weisman observes correctly that Japan's "goal was to assure access to natural
resources, markets and freedom of the seas." These goals it has now attained,
he adds, by "its own hard work" and "the generosity (and self-interest)
of the United States." The implication is that Japan could have achieved
the same goals 50 years ago, had it not been in the grip of fascist ideology
and primitive delusion. Overlooked are some obvious questions. If Japan could
have achieved these ends by accepting Western norms, then why did the British,
the Americans, and the other imperial states not simply abandon the high tariff
walls they had erected around their colonies to bar Japan? Or, assuming that
such idealism would be too much to ask, why did Hull not at least accept the
Japanese offer for mutuality of exploitation? Such thoughts go beyond legitimate
bounds, reaching into the forbidden territory of "American motives."
In the real world, Japan's aggression gave an impetus to the nationalist movements
that displaced colonial rule in favor of the more subtle mechanisms of domination
of the postwar period. Furthermore, the war left the US in a position to design
the new world order. Under these new conditions, Japan could be offered its
"Empire toward the South" (as Kennan put it) under US control, though
within limits: the US intended to maintain its "power over what Japan imports
in the way of oil and such other things" so that "we would have veto
power on what she does need in the military and industrial field," as Kennan
advised in 1949.20 This stance was maintained until unexpected factors intervened,
notably the Vietnam war with its costs to the US and benefits to Japan and other
Yet another fault of the Japanese, Weisman observes, is the "bellicose
terms" in which they frame Japanese-American relations, thus revealing
their penchant for militarism. The Japanese speak of "their `second strike':
if Washington cuts off Japanese imports, Tokyo can strangle the American economy
by cutting off investments or purchases of Treasury bonds." Even if we
adopt Weisman's unexamined judgment on the impropriety of such retaliation,
it would hardly seem to
rank high in comparison to standard US practices: for example, the devastating
and illegal economic warfare regularly waged against such enemies as Cuba, Chile,
Nicaragua, and Vietnam; or the efforts of Jacksonian Democrats to "place
all other nations at our feet," primarily the British enemy, by gaining
a monopoly over the most important commodity in world trade.
Japan's worst sin, however, is its tendency towards "self-pity," its
refusal to offer reparations to its victims, its "clumsy attempts to sanitize
the past" and in general, its failure to "come forward with a definitive
statement of wartime responsibility." Here Weisman is on firm ground --
or would be, if he, or his editors, or their colleagues in the doctrinal system
were even to consider the principles they espouse for others. They do not, not
for a moment, as the record shows with utter clarity.
4 See PEHR, II 32f., 39. On the principles of justice employed, see also FRS,
ch. 3, reprinted from a Yale Law Review symposium on Nuremberg andVietnam. For
excerpts from Pal's dissent, see APNM. See Minnear, Victor's Justice. Leahy,
cited by Braw, Atomic Bomb, from his 1950 autobiography, I Was There.
5 Japan historian Herbert Bix, BG, April 19, 1992.
6 APNM, ch. 2, for further material and sources.
7 Ibid., for excerpts.
8 See TTT, 194f.; Simpson, Blowback; Reese, Gehlen.
9 McClintock, Instruments, 59ff., 230ff. Lewy, America in Vietnam. For discussion
of this parody of history, see the review by Chomsky and Edward Herman, reprinted
in TNCW. For Lewy's thoughts on how to eliminate the plague of independent thought
on the home front, see NI, 350f.
10 Bernard Fall, Ramparts, Dec. 1965, reprinted in Last Reflections. For a postwar
eyewitness description, see John Pilger, New Statesman, Sept. 15,
1978. Shenon, NYT magazine, Jan. 5, 1992.
11 Dower, "Remembering (and Forgetting) War," ms, MIT.
12 Hietala, Manifest Design, 61; Kent, Hawaii, 41f. Daws, Shoal of Time, 241.
Poka Laenui, "The Theft of the Hawaiian Nation," Indigenous Thought,
Oct. 1991. See pp. 17-18, 38, above; DD, ch. 12.
13 Kent, Daws, Laenui, op. cit.
14 Institute for the Advancement of Hawaiian Affairs, 86-649 Puuhulu Rd., Wai`anae
15 Lehner, WSJ, Dec. 6, 1991.
16 Weisman, NYT magazine, Nov. 3, 1991.
17 On Fairbank's views, see TNCW, 400-1.
18 DD, ch. 11, and sources cited. Kennan, cited in Cumings, Origins, II, 57;
see volumes I, II on the mass murder campaign in US-occupied Korea prior to
is called "the Korean war."
19 Sherwood Fine, quoted by Moore, Japanese Workers, p. 18; Moore, on the general
topic. Bix, "The Showa Emperor's `Monologue' and the Problem of War Responsibility,"
J. of Japanese Studies, 18.2, 1992 (citing John Dower, Japan Times,
Jan. 9, 1989).
20 Cumings, Origins, II, 57.