Friday, August 14, 2015

Reinterpreting Pearl Harbor

I have to admit that being alive during WW II and with a father in the Pacific the position taken by Japan still rings loudly. Thus in reading Abe's somewhat self serving piece in The Syndicate I was a bit taken aback.

For example he states:

With the Manchurian Incident, followed by withdrawal from the League of Nations, Japan gradually transformed itself into a challenger to the new global order that the international community sought to establish after such tremendous sacrifices. Japan took the wrong course and advanced along the road to war.  

The Manchurian Incident was a massive invasion and occupation by Japan of China's territory resulting in the massacre of thousands in Nanking. 

Then he states:

More than one hundred years ago, vast colonies, possessed mainly by the Western powers, stretched across the world. With their overwhelming supremacy in technology, waves of Western colonial forces surged toward Asia in the nineteenth century. There is no doubt that the resulting sense of crisis drove Japan to pursue modernization. Japan established a constitutional government earlier than any other country in Asia, and preserved its independence throughout. The Japan-Russia War gave encouragement to many people under colonial rule from Asia to Africa. 

But was that an excuse for the assault on Pearl Harbor, for the Death Marches, for the abject slaughter?
Abe, in my opinion, writes a classic "on the one hand and on the other hand" piece. Japan had defeated Russia. Japan then occupied land mass after land mass, gathering up natural resources it needed in its attempt to defeat the United States.

Abe continues:

We will engrave in our hearts the past, when Japan attempted to break the deadlock it faced with force. Upon this reflection, Japan will continue to uphold firmly the principle that any disputes must be settled peacefully and diplomatically, based on respect for the rule of law, and to reach out to other countries in the world to do the same. As the only country to have ever suffered the devastation of atomic bombings during war, Japan will fulfill its responsibility within the international community, aiming at the non-proliferation and ultimate abolition of nuclear weapons. 

I recall the writing from my father's shipmate which recorded today, as they prepared in the Aleutians for an invasion of Japan and sure death, that the men who had survived Japanese attack after Japanese attack and seen hundreds of their shipmates dismembered by Japanese shells, just sit in tears on the deck of their Destroyer, knowing that the end of the horror was near. Regrettably it was Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, but the end was quick, and the lives lost significantly attenuated.

Perhaps Japan may someday come to the point of recognizing that it really was not on the one hand and on the other, but that they made a terrible error. Yet it is this understanding that should be understood by all, for such errors, as can be self justified, can be repeated. The consequences of nuclear weapons are a horror mankind must avoid, and that means an acceptance of consequences, not an attempt to justify, no matter how slightly.