Rape, murder, mayhem, and Urban Myth

My view on the legacies Frank Capra and Iris Chang have left behind for us to deal with
(Warning: some links may lead to graphic depictions not suitable for human consumption)

People are all too ready to believe dark rumors, and so they spread. But what kind of mind dreams them up? Is it a particularly evil mind that conceives of those awful atrocities, or is it a natural tendency of humans as they explore every what-if possibility and permutation?

I started to look into this topic because as a Japanese, I feel our collective name and face have been dragged through the mud too many times in the world stage, often as a pretext for starting and escalating war. In the process, I have discovered the concept of "urban myth" that can be so powerful and heinous there is a trail of victims stretching all through the history: Witch trials, convicted innocent daycare providers (modern day equivalent of witch trial, I guess), even the flood survivors of New Orleans were victimized by various urban myths, and tens of thousands were imprisoned in the flooded city without much food, drinks and shelters for 5 days, while the world watched wondering why the help was so slow to arrive. The accusations included unspeakable atrocities against babies, little girls, and pregnant women, just like the fall of Nanking. It served as the pretext to delay the rescue and send in the military with combat gears.

How fake were the propaganda movies and Photos?

The similarities between New Orleans after the flood and Nanking (Nanjing) after fall of the city: 

In New Orleans August 2005
In Nanking December 1937
Who were there
Poor blacks (Those who did not have car, enough money, or place to go)
Poor Chinese and Japanese military (The well to do left Nanking a few weeks before the Japanese military arrived. Iris Chang's grandparents were among them)
Who spread the information
City officials, major media reporters, tourist who were allowed to leave the city early
Who believed it
Who were the target of prejudice
Poor blacks
Orientals (Chinese as victims and Japanese as perpetrators)

If you read the accounts accusing Japanese of atrocities in Nanking when it fell at the end of 1937, the accusations extend even to mutilating and raping babies. The first time I have ever heard of such a thing was in a context of Satan worship and witchcraft soon after I came to the U.S.  It sounded so foreign and implausible. Does it really happen?  Is it one of the infinite permutations of what if scenarios that human brain generates?  Or is it some kind of urban myth, a reflection of dark past that is kept alive and invoked in fearful moments or in hate-filled minds in some culture, strong enough to convict innocent daycare providers and destroy their lives? I read similar horror stories that have come out of New Orleans during those terrible 5 days after the flood, which no one could substantiate. (OK. I did some googling, and some people were doing unspeakable things to babies in South Africa not long ago, because it was recommended as the only cure for venereal diseases and AIDS! I have also found unspeakable savagery committed against Japanese babies in Tongzhou1937 by Chinese militants and some photographs taken then is displayed in the Nanking museum as a thing Japanese soldiers did to the Chinese in Naking!! It just proves the essence of urban myth: The Chinese expected the Japanese to do exactly what they did to the Japanese as a retaliation. It did not matter what the truth was.)

As I said, I am picking up such a dreadful topic now because as a Japanese, I feel our collective name and face have been dragged through the mud by certain propaganda machines as a pretext for starting and escalating a war. It happened in 1937 and China seems to think it will work again now, 70 some years later. Worse yet, most of the world seems to believe it. I pray America will not make the same mistake again (There was no Weapon of Mass Destruction back then to use as a pretext to start a war, instead, this propaganda was used as a pretext  to use the WMD on Japan). Isn't it interesting that a country that massacred the natives to near extinction is the country that used the so-called Nanking massacre as a pretext to drop the atomic bomb and that the same country which invented a WMD and actually used it in a real war not only once, but twice is the country that used suspected WMD as a pretext to start a war. Does it tell us something about human nature? Or is it just a coincidence?
As to the facts of the fall of Nanking, I'd leave it to historians. When a good Japanese historian says that 40,000 men (not 300,000 civilians) in uniform and plain clothe were buried (killed by Chinese military as well as the Japanese), I believe it. When he says that there are enough indications that the evidences presented to show atrocities committed on civilians by Japanese solders are fake or miss-attributed (e.g. Chinese killing Japanese or Chinese killing Chinese), I believe it.

Even then, the question remains. Why did 40,000 men had to be killed? Arimasa Kubo explains it in detail. Still, 40,000 is a large number from today's perspective, but when you try to maintain order in the area where terrorism is rampant, like some places in today's Africa and the Middle East, what do you do? If you were Algerian military in Amenas or French military in Mali, what would you do with the militants? As far as I can tell, the fall of Nanking took place in a similar context (all the officers including Chiang Kai‐shek fled the city leaving the soldiers in disarray after burning down most of the area). 40,000 sounds reasonable compared to 26,000 Iraqi military personnel killed in the Gulf War in 1990 -1991 when America chased them out of Kuwait, considering the primitive chaos of Nanking in 1937.

From my perspective, civilians or  terrorists, Japanese or non-Japanese, a killing is a killing. Whether it was legitimate military action or war crime is beside the point. An awful lot of people have been killed for no good reasons, and still are. Many people today probably would agree with me on this point. However, digging up movies and photographs  produced for propaganda purposes in the past and gathering unproven hearsay that may be nothing more than urban myth and enshrine them as historical facts for propaganda purposes is a crime in itself. If it is done to a person, you can sue for defamation of character. Furthermore, force-feeding young children's minds with such images is a form of child abuse. The world has a legitimate concern about governments who force-feed their grade school children with such images, even if they are what they say they are. Demanding Japanese government to do the same is totally out of line. I do not have any knowledge of what was troubling Iris Chang's mind, but one thing is clear. Her quest for atrocity hunting did not heal her mind. The suspicious circumstance of her death begs a question: Wasn't she a victim? As a Harvard journalism major, Iris Chang should have and must have known better than writing a history book based on propaganda movies and hearsay.

My father lived in Sakhalin during his teenage years and served as a soldier in Manchuria during his late twenties and early thirties. Unlike Iris Chang's grandparents, he never burdened me with his memories of those years, although nothing could persuade him to have any positive opinion of the peoples he encountered in those places. Actually, growing up in post war Japan, I have wondered why hardly no one including my father talked about the details of that war. I know now that MacArthur and company suppressed war related information that could shed any positive light on Japanese side. But they left by the time I was 5, and there were nothing to stop my father and other adults around me from passing on any war story. Whatever the reason that made them refrain from passing on those "unpleasant" war time memories, I think it was a good thing. Because of that, the current generation of Japanese did not inherit whatever negative perceptions fostered by that war experiences in our parents and grandparents generation. Unfortunately, however, we are finding a whole new set of reasons to be suspicious and prejudiced against them. I wonder who would benefit from it.

The Japanese government and politicians have been offering apologies for "the trouble Japan has caused to the neighboring countries during that war" and more (apologizing for using well paid Korean prostitutes during the war, and letting them call themselves sex slaves, for example.) . I am not aware of any other nation offering any apology to other nations they took over in the past. It looks rather peculiar for a head of modern nation to do so without any attempt to establish the facts or to analyze the legal implications first. Perhaps, they did so relying on the traditional use of apology. That is, in a spirit of there is enough blame to go around and as an invitation to let bygones be bygones. Sadly, that seems to be backfiring. The apology is taken as a sign of weakness and encouraging outrageous claims rather than any apology in return. Now Japanese are intensifying their efforts to dig the truth and to preserve the memories before the war survivors completely disappear into the history, partly due to the recent history of persistent one-sided propaganda against Japan on the world stage.

What did Iris Chang think about those apologies? Her answer to this very question was rather dismissive. Her answer even revealed her lack of interest in the matter, although that was what she was demanding. According to this article, it is obvious that apology without reparations and re-education of Japanese children according to her version of the truth was not acceptable. Would she be happy to learn that the Japanese government has done all she demanded? Apparently the very people whose honor she tried to restore are not.

Her desire to right the wrong is understandable. It must have infuriated her ever since she heard about it from her grandparents in her childhood. However, it is important to note that Chang's grandparents escaped Nanking just weeks before the Japanese army marched on the city. In other words, they were not eyewitnesses. And it is even more important to remember what urban myths were spread by the people who were actually in New Orleans during those 5 days. Iris Chang tried to equate the fall of Nanking to Holocaust. That would be an insult to the Holocaust victims. She was heavily relying on hearsay, and propaganda movies produced by Frank Capra. If they turned out to be a collection of urban myths, and movies filled with staged acts, forged photos, and miss-attributed scenes (e.g. Chinese solders killing Chinese men shown as Japanese solders killing Chinese men), her efforts to right the wrong become false accusation. For someone seeking justice, it would be devastating.    

Those who know the history of that war may wonder why Japan does not respond in kind by pointing out those atrocities committed against Japanese civilians as well as soldiers: in Tongzhou1937, where 223 Japanese civilians including women and children were brutally mascaraed 5 month before the fall of Nanking; in Shanghai on Aug. 14, 1937 where over 1,000 Japanese civilians were killed by air attacks (this was the direct cause of the Japanese military action ended in fall of Nanking, yet no one seems making the connection); in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 while Japan was desperately seeking a way out to end the war (not to mention all the carpet bombings of Japanese cities); and civilians as well as soldiers killed or taken as prisoners and put in labor camps in China, Manchuria, Korea, Sakhalin, and in the Northern islands, soon after the surrender on August 15, 1945, as well as atrocities committed to women during the American occupation of mainland Japan and Okinawa. The prevailing sentiment in Japan seems that after all, it was war, and it was a different time. The real evil is not in the individual incidence of atrocity, but in the larger context that shapes the conflict. Once a war is put in motion, it runs its course by its own logic. Accusing each other's past aggression and inciting revenge is not the way forward. The world cannot survive an endless cycle of revenge. If we do not learn to resist evil forces that try to incite and stir up our primitive fears and hostilities, we will soon be driven into needless wars killing neighbors.  At least I'd like to believe that the Japanese as a whole are mature enough to understand all that.

One more thing. Do you think it is a duty of all good people to know the intimate detail of atrocities? After I visited the museum of nuclear bomb atrocity in Hiroshima, I became totally convinced it is not. They are hazardous to your health. They poison your psych in a way you are not equipped to deal with. Is it a way to honor the dead? I don't feel it is. Don't we try to restore a damaged body as much as possible to honor the dead rather than exposing it as is? That sentiment still applies even when it is only a picture. All those atrocity museums, books, movies, and websites should carry a warning (some of them probably do).


To find out what Henry Scott-Stokes, a British journalist, has found about the propaganda surrounding Nanjing Incident of 1937, here is the full interview and here is the WSJ article about the interview. The English version of his book this interview is about (Falsehoods of the Allied Nations’ Victorious View of History as Seen by a British JournalistNov. 2013). So called "Nanjing Massacre" was most certainly KMT (Chiang Kai-shek's government) propaganda, he says. I read the Japanese version, and he detailed the timeline of how the propaganda was manufactured, who were involved, and the historic sources of information available including the Chiang Kai-shek government's archives. Kyodo News who reported total lie about the intent of the book's author made itself more than clear what kind of propaganda machine it has been for whom. The article was repeated by various pro-China papers such as South China Morning Post.

  (Atrocities committed to Japanese civilians in Korea as soon as Japan's surrender became apparent in Summer of 1945. The memories of a Japanese girl who survived it.)

Frank Capra
Iris Chang
More Horrible Than Truth: News Reports
Chang recounts the forgotten holocaust of the Chinese people (from The Sun, Sunnyvale's Newspaper)
Modern History - Hurricane Katrina, Savagery, Racism and Combat Operations, 2005
After the Flood (from This American Life)
Baby rapes shock South Africa (BBC News)
Frank Capra's propaganda movie made in the U.S.A 1944.
The Nanking Atrocities: Fact and Fable by Hata Ikuhiko
The So-Called Nanking Massacre was a Fabrication
Tongzhou incident
The Horror: Should the Japanese atrocities in Nanking be equated with the Nazi Holocaust?
'Rape of Nanking' Author Iris Chang Dies (WasingtonPost.com)

The Pacific War - The USA Mistook the True Enemy (a must read to understand why the Pacific war happened the way it did)

The Pacific War and the Basis of Racial Equality
The Pacific War was not "democracy vs. fascism." The USA mistook the true enemy. The true enemy of the Americans was not Japan. Japan fought the war for self-defense and to liberate Asian countries. It became the war of making the basis for racial equality.

China’s Lie About the Senkaku Islands
Why the Chinese Government tells a lie about the Senkaku Islands of Japan.

Watch Documentary Movies of Nanking on Youtube
(These are valuable records of the peaceful and restoring city of Nanking just after the Japanese occupation)
* Chinese refugees and the Nanking Safety Zone
* Japanese soldiers distributing certificates to Chinese citizens
* Japanese soldiers preparing for the new year 1938 and the Chinese children celebrating New Year's Day

No comments:

Post a Comment