Monday, April 12, 2004

NPR on Japanese pacifism

I found myself listening to NPR this morning (yes, the other stations were that bad!) and came across this line in a report from a British ex-pat reporter in Japan:

...[Japan's] pacifist, post WW2 constitution, does not allow troops to be involved in combat abroad. This military castration, born of Japanese aggression in the '30s and '40s [hmm, I think I heard something about that],...

Oh, wait, is that all it was 'born' of? Good thing those Japanese saw the error of their ways and corrected that!

This sloppy reporting reinforces the 'accidental' view many Japanese have of their actions in WW2. In this line of thought, Japan's fate at the end of the war wasn't necessarily a result of anything evil that was done on their part ('mistakes were made'), but because those Americans were trying to suffocate Japan by taking their oil. At best, many (on both sides, unfortunately) put up a moral equivalence that says that Americans were just as bad as the Japanese because of U.S. military's actions during the war. In the words of a former defense minister of Japan (which I want to note, in no way characterizes the people of Japan's opinion as a whole. God forbid someone think all Americans think like Jimmy Carter!):

"Faced with oil and other embargoes from other countries, Japan had no choice but to venture out southward to secure natural resources," Norota, who is chairman of the Budget Committee of the powerful Lower House of parliament, was quoted by domestic media as telling supporters of the dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on Sunday.

"In other words, Japan had fallen prey to a scheme of the United States. This is what many historians are saying," he said in remarks reminiscent of the justification used by Japanese militarists in the 1930s for their invasion of much of Asia.

I also found a brief article detailing some differences in how the war is handled on television in the two countries:

The most striking element in the American WWII documentary was the scene that depicts the day when the Japanese surrendered: American soldiers that returned triumphantly, happy faces of their families, relatives, and friends, and the triumphant parade in New York. These images are filled with joy and pride from the victory.
[Yup, sounds good to me!]
In fact, few TV shows on WWII that I have seen ever mentioned the American Air Force's bombing on sixty one cities in Japan, including the two biggest cities, Tokyo and Osaka. Before the Americans dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, more than 170,000 Japanese people, most of them civilians, had been killed, but this historical fact is largely ignored in most American documentaries.
[more on this point later]
Japanese TV shows on WWII, on the other hand, do not deal with military history. The Japanese military's invasions to China and Korea, and many other battles against European countries that colonized many Asian nations, are wiped out from WWII history programs on Japanese TV. There must have been brave military actions of Japanese soldiers. There must have been aggressive and cruel behavior of them as well.

Brave military actions? He mean ones like this and this. As well, I'm sorry to tell him, but the reason the civilian deaths aren't (highly) covered by American TV is because Americans don't give a hoot. Why is this? Because as any (non-NPR) idiot can see, Japan was evil and the U.S. did a great service to the world (and Japan) by tearing it down and building it anew.

Of course, for NPR to point this fact out, it might lend further credence to a certain war going on at the moment, and it might also benefit a certain hated president. Now we can't have any of that on taxpayer supported radio! Better that Japan have their history white washed than Bush win four more years!

(I will point out that the reporter later talks to an American professor in Tokyo that points out many of the same great points made by yours truly.)

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