Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Pearl Harbor Ruse?

Pictured: The boardgame, Pacific War by Victory Games

by Kevin Burns

So often in Japan, I hear opinions that are totally divergent from what I have grown up hearing at school and elsewhere. One that I have sometimes heard and heard again recently from two very intelligent and well-informed Japanese, was that Japan was set-up by America in World War II. The Americans deliberately left Pearl Harbor largely undefended in order to allure the Japanese into attacking.

The ultimatum, was late getting to Washington due to an American plot. Presumably to make the Japanese look bad or to go along with thePearl Harbor ruse.

Some have declared that China asked Japan to come and help to put down some rebellions in China. I know the people of Nanking would disagree with this account of history. Many Japanese feel however, than Nankingnever happened.They say there is no evidence for it. Sounds familiar? Many neo-Nazisclaim there is no evidence of the holocaust too. It can be a challenge to discern the truth at times, but there are cases in Japan for example, where the truth is deliberately hidden, exaggerated, and changed. Movements to disseminate the truth are brought down or stymied by a coalition of right wingers and politicians and officials who fear it would damage Japan.

Back to Pearl Harbor: Sometimes what we grow up learning is later proved to be wrong as classified documents become unclassified, and this is true in all nations.Indeed, the bulk of the American carriers were luckily absent from the harbor, was this just a coincidence? The Twilight Zone music kicks in.

One of my students said last night that Japan should apologize to every country they fought with except America. When I pressed him on this he brought up the subject of the Pearl Harbor ruse. Is there any validity to this opinion or is it another myth?

Will later declassified documents prove our predominant opinion of a Japanese surprise attack wrong? I have my doubts, but when I hear well-read Japanese talk like this and back it up with quotes from the NHK, Iagain start to doubt what I have learned. Does the victor indeed write history and is always right?

I have often been angered by the Japanese claims of passivity andtheir claims of being victims due to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What about Pearl Harbor I want to scream at them! If you are going to talk about the atomic bombings surely you should mention the tragedy of Pearl Harbor, Nanking, the Death March and others, but they don't see it that way. I think they should. You cannot look at the events of WW2in isolation they were all tragedies and should be atoned for.

Hosokawa was the only Prime Minister of Japan to have the guts to acknowledge and apologize for what Japan had done to Asian nations during World War 2. Then predictably, he was shouted down and forced to quit the government bythose elements in Japan who want to gloss over and hide the past. Hosokawa couldn't keep his rebellious coalition together after that.

That again, was another tragedy, and helped to smear Japan's international prestige even more. Fifty-five years after the end of World War II, Japan is still an international pariah state to many, many people.

Recently, right wingers in Japan are fearful. They had thought that after more than sixty years people would forget. However, there is a growing movement to make Japan acknowledge the past and say a sincere sorry. Stay tuned, it will happen.

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