Saturday, June 16, 2007

THE USE AND ABUSE OF NEWSWEEK: WAS THAT A JAPANESE GOVERNMENT PLANT IN NEWSWEEK in April or WAS THAT JUST BAD HISTORY?

THE USE AND ABUSE OF NEWSWEEK: WAS THAT A JAPANESE GOVERNMENT PLANT IN NEWSWEEK in April or WAS THAT JUST BAD HISTORY?

By Kevin A. Stoda

The special issue of NEWSWEEK on April 2, 2007 was entitled “Voices of the Fallen”. The issue focused on: “The Iraq War in the Words of America’s Dead.” It was a fairly nice commemorative using stories from blogs, diaries, and letters (along with comments by loved ones) from American soldiers who have died or been killed due to the military invasion and subsequent conflicts in Iraq. Surprisingly, embedded in this special edition’s collection of somewhat noble and exploitive articles and summaries of American’s abused and killed in Iraq (and even stories of Iraqis being abused and killed in their homeland) was a Japanese written editorial on p. 15 in the “World View” section.
This particular editorial on p. 15 in the “World View” section of that Newsweek Special Edition was by the Japanese historian, Hideaki, Kase and was called “The Use and Abuse of the Past”. It was outrageous for Newsweek to even consider publishing the piece—let alone to taint American blood & memories of war by such a farcical retelling of history.

Kase is a historian who served as adviser to two Japanese Prime Ministers in recent decades: Takeo Fukuda and Yasuhiro Nakasone. Kase’s article is an unapologetic reflection upon why recent Japanese governments are willing to get rid of two cherished notions or ideals in post-WWII Japanese history. These are (1) a peace constitution that officially prohibits a standing Japanese military and (2) an unofficial tradition of pacifistic education (and ideology) that has naturally included an anti-nuclear foreign policy.

As one example of this anti-nuclear tradition in Japan, for over two decades now America’s nuclear navy has been prohibited from officially entering the waters of Japan—because the U.S. refuses to tell whether nuclear weapons are on their ships or not. Another facet of this peace tradition has been the long opposition in the Japanese Diet (and among most parts of the nation’s society) to ever arming Japan with atomic or nuclear weapons.

On the other hand, the mantle of victim-hood in Nagasaki and Hiroshima are worn by almost all Japanese. Almost every high school and many junior highs in the country annually make one school excursion to visit Hiroshima’s Peace Park for even just an afternoon. In the famed Hiroshima Peace Park, one can also find educational monuments reflecting on the abuse of child labor and foreigners in 1930s and 1940s, i.e. during the infamous era of Japanese Imperialist War. In short, over the past 6 decades, Japan has cultivated a “peaceful image”—even if its government and textbook writers have often failed to a great extant to tell the fuller and truer stories of Japanese atrocities and war crimes of the WWII era. For example, only one or two textbooks have ever covered the Nanking massacre or the subject of comfort women—that is women who were forced to work as prostitutes by the occupiers.

Now for over a decade, successive leaders in Japan—especially in the wake of the nuclearization and creation of advanced missile technology in North Korea—have been trying to march the Japanese people back into marching form for further arms build ups in coming years. Just as Germany did in the 1990s, Japan wants to reassert itself at the tables of the great military powers of the world.

Moreover, the recent rise of a newly powerful China has also certainly contributed to this turn to the far right in Japanese public discourse. It is for this reason that Japanese rightists might desire it was time to plant in U.S. papers an article such as this particular one written by Kase. The refrain in this Newsweek article by Kase is simply that America should not challenge this new rightist (or fascist) trend in rhetoric and activities among the growingly conservative Japanese political leadership.

Interestingly, this article of notoriety was published less than a month before the pacifist mayor of Nagasaki was gunned down in the streets of that ill-fated city (in one of the more beautiful corners of the Japanese archipelago). In contrast to what Kase has written in his Newsweek editorial (disguised as news), now it might be more appropriate in the wake of so many official and unofficial attacks on the pacifist leftist tradition in Japan if Americans (and their government) once-again held Japan to a higher standard than many of its Asian neighbors. Japan needs to be asked to clean house once and for all the closet violent and fascistic trends which marked too much of Japan’s modern history already.

All-in-all, this extremely unbalanced piece on Japanese history by Kase reflects sadly more the “abuse and use of the past” in present day Japan by a long line of short-term premiers in Japan who have made their rightwing credentials by visiting the most infamous Shrine in Japan. These wishful thinking historians, part-time politicians, and part-time historian politicians (and even gangsters, like those who gunned down the Mayor of Nagasaki,) want Japan to continue to be seen as a Post-WWII victim of the U.S. occupation and victims of liable by anti-Japanese Asians.

Kase’s writing completely whitewashes the details of Japan’s decades-long occupations of its neighbors from Russia to Indonesia (from Burma to the Phillipines). This so-called historian Kase tries to argue that the fact that the governments of Korea, Taiwan, China, and other previously occupied and abused neighboring Asian governments failed to lodge international protests against the Japanese war crimes (of the 1930s and 1940s) immediately in the post-WWII era is proof enough that no war crimes occurred.
Such nonsense! That is the language of a slick and shady lawyer but no statesman would ever rely on such language. Moreover, no real historian would accept such poor logic in making a proper narration of WWII or 20th Century Asian history.
Come on, Mr. Historian Kase!!!!

Who during the era of anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s and 1960s would have wanted to force Japan to be even more isolated and more economically handicapped?
A history of a Japan feeling isolated, playing the role of victim or late comer on the world stage had led previously in history to only war. Japan was on its back in the 1950s-- and threatened by China and Russia. Neither America nor Western Europe wanted to isolate Japan any further either at that point in history. Those states all recognized by that time that their own faulty 19th Century imperialistic economic and political development practices and their designs on neighboring Asian territory had propelled Japan onto the path of military imperialism in the 1880s in the first place.

Any good historian and statesmen knows this. When Japan is backed into a corner, it copies what its adversaries are up to and takes competition to a new level or it simply goes down in one bloody bath as it did in the midst of its great civil wars of the 16th and 19th centuries--and again in the 1943-45 period.

Moreover, Mr. Kase took time the opportunity in his piece to imply that the Japanese military never forced women into slavery, especially sex-slavery. Again, the jury is not out on this matter either Mr. Japanese historian! The number of abuses from Japanese occupying forces from the Phillipines or the Koreans to central China and back down to Burma and Indonesia are heftily documented in fifty some archives around the globe.

For example, Mr. Historian, just check with the numerous Dutch women who were abuse and have filed complaints in recent years. Again, the reasons for a minor cover-up by the victims, i.e. many women who were raped and abused for months and years in prostitution camps did not want to continue in the role of victim after the end of Japanese occupation. Many women sought to start over in their societies and naturally sought to cover-up the abuses in order to build a better post-WWII planet.

Are you saying, Mr. Historian, that you find silence in the face of horror as different for the real victims of Japanese’s Imperialism throughout Eastern Asian as surprise? How could you not interpret silence on rape more properly? Your own country covered up the great abuses in your homelands for many decades after WWII! These horrors include the facts that in the name of the nation and in the name of the Emperor women, children, and grandparents in villages across the land were forced for months-on-end to prepare and attack and fight the fully-armed Allied forces (carrying automatic weapons) with wooden swords until they had victory or succumbed to death.

No good historian should assume that silence on a matter by anyone is simply proof that something never happened. If Mr. Kase would meet with the women who were so abused—some abused for over many years under the severest conditions of Japanese occupation, whereby these women and teenage girls had to decide between hunger (and death) in a camp nearby or the horror and abuse of a life as a Japanese sex slave.

Mr. Kase reveals no evidence that he ever tried to personally meet with such women. (My friend D.D. has a Dutch aunt who survived one of the Japanese camps in Indonesia. Her story and others true stories have been portrayed in many films in recent years. Didn’t Mr. Kase study this phenomena in film or documentary either?)

In conclusion, this so-called historian Hideaki Kase who somehow got his editorial entitled “The Use and Abuse of the Past” is guilty of a crime against humanity’s valuable memories himself. If what he wrote is not a crime, it should be if he and his cronies succeed in rolling back the memories of the past and painting the Japanese as the only victims of Asian war in the 20th Century.

Further, I have to ask how could the USA periodical Newsweek have published such a week and ill-thought out piece. The article looks like nothing more than Japanese government style propaganda?

I can only imagine that some under-the-table or quid-pro-quo deal took place either at Newsweek or through pressures at the governmental level—whereby the USA government, too, is known for getting its own propaganda published as “news” in periodicals in neighboring lands around the globe.

One final caveat: Thirteen years ago I wrote a poorly written piece in a Japanese periodical, THE JET JOURNAL. Interestingly, the title of that writing of mine had a similar title to the one published by Kase in Newsweek in its April 2007 special edition on war memories. My article had been about the abuse and use of English in Japan and was called: "Homo Milk: Abusive Language and Abuse of Language”.

This admittedly poorly thought out piece of mine was critical towards the thoughtlessness with which Japanese peoples were using English and other foreign languages in Japan to market themselves and their identities. The Japanese government and numerous NGOs in Japan were trying to promote international awareness in Japan, and I thought my article would provide some insights. (That particular journal targets foreign language teachers and others interested cross-cultural and language issues in Japan and abroad.)
Now that I am older and have more years of experience working internationally than when I wrote my 1994 article on the “Abuse of Language”, I would say that the whining tone of that writing was manipulative and placed foreigners in the position of seeing themselves as victims in the Japanese society. What I had wanted to say was simply that Japanese ought to be more thoughtful about how they were going about creating new international identities by appropriating and misusing other nations’ cultures & languages in marketing, on television, in magazines, etc. When I reread the article after it was published in 1994 in The JET JOURNAL , I saw that it had also been published with many inaccuracies and I am not proud of how the piece came out.
In short, I can recognize and admit when my writings are off-target. It is rare for Japanese leadership, however, to apologize for much of anything when it comes to history, but that doesn’t mean that historian kase can’t burn a new path by apologizing for misleading readers in Newsweek on April 2, 2007.
If Historian Kase is now ashamed at what Newsweek published (or the slant Newsweek gave his writing), I invite him to come out and admit it. Meanwhile, I think Newsweek itself has a lot of explaining to do to the American public. Why did the publishers decide to taint that special issue on American soldiers in Iraq( and their families at home) by putting that Japanese governmental propaganda article in the very same issue as if it were (1) fact, (2) newsworthy, and (3) connected at all to the reality on the ground in the Middle East today or in Asia in either the past or in the near future.?


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